Embarrassing Redaction Failures & How To Prevent Them

Embarrassing Redaction Failures & How To Prevent Them

There is nothing quite as embarrassing as messing up at work. This feeling intensifies when the blunder is irreversible and your superiors are bound to discover it. Imagine the amplified embarrassment when not just your boss, but the entire world, becomes aware of your mistake. This is the harsh reality faced by those who are in charge of redacting important documents for court submissions or newspaper publications and fail to do it properly. Inadequate redaction can inadvertently reveal confidential trade secrets or even jeopardize crucial operations by entities like the National Security Agency (NSA). Such errors can trigger extensive problems for numerous parties involved.

While the process of redacting sensitive information from documents can seem complex, it’s crucial to avoid errors. Notably, in 2005, the National Security Agency (NSA) released a comprehensive guide for redacting Word documents converted to PDF. Similarly, in 2006, Adobe issued a technical note detailing the redaction process for PDF documents. Many reputable sources have since shared instructions on proper redaction techniques, yet mistakes continue to occur. The risk of human error during redaction can be minimized by utilizing specific software designed for effective and efficient document redaction. Learn from the mistakes of others and take preventative measures to avoid redaction issues in the future.

Black pencil bag, unzipped, filled with different colored sharpie markers sitting on a white table.

A Sharpie Is Not A Redaction Tool

In June of 2023, Sony allegedly had an embarrassing redaction failure itself. The company presented documentation loaded with confidential information tied to the PlayStation brand. Surprisingly, these documents were redacted using a traditional Sharpie marker. This situation parallels a scene from the film ‘Hidden Figures,’ where Katherine receives a pile of marker-redacted documents. She then holds them up against the light to uncover the obscured information, enabling her to accurately compute calculations for a spacecraft launch. In a similar vein, the redacted content in Sony’s documents was inadvertently made accessible.

These documents revealed the production costs for various video games, along with user gaming statistics. Though the disclosed information wasn’t earth-shattering, it was unequivocally released in error. This incident underscores the fact that a mere marker is inadequate for secure document redaction.

Lost in Redaction: A Snag in Apple’s Legal Battle with Samsung

In 2011, tech giant Apple found itself embroiled in numerous patent lawsuits across different countries, with a significant number against Samsung Electronics. One such case, involving patent infringement, took an unexpected turn in December of that year.

A California federal district judge released an ostensibly redacted opinion on the Apple-Samsung legal dispute. The document featured several blacked-out sections, but a glaring oversight became apparent when the concealed text, copied and pasted from the PDF into a new document, was revealed in full. This redaction failure was quickly noticed, leading the court to seal the opinion to secure the disclosed information. A correctly redacted version of the opinion was posted a few hours later.

Leaking Classified Information

Edward Snowden is infamous for stealing millions of documents and leaking classified information to the media. Ingeniously, he transported data on a microchip, concealed within a Rubik’s Cube, past security checks. In early 2013, Snowden made a dramatic exit from his job and escaped the United States, seeking refuge in over twenty countries before finally being offered asylum in Russia, where he currently holds citizenship.

One of the documents Snowden leaked to the press was leaked to the New York Times and they published a redacted copy of it for their readers. However, similar to the previous instance in the Apple lawsuit, the redaction process was incorrectly executed. By simply copying and pasting the ‘redacted’ content into a fresh document, the identity of an NSA agent involved in operations concerning Al Qaeda was unintentionally exposed, posing a direct threat to their safety. This could have been avoided If the New York Times had exercised thorough caution in redacting the confidential information prior to releasing it on the Internet.

The Best Tool For Redaction

Why settle for general-purpose tools like Adobe or a Sharpie marker for redaction when you can leverage a platform explicitly designed for the task?

CaseGuard Studio is an all-in-one redaction software that was designed by an acclaimed team of engineers dedicated to delivering a superior product. Its robust AI technology is trained to identify personally identifiable information (PII) in documents and audio files, such as names, phone numbers, social security numbers, and more. The AI doesn’t stop there: it simplifies the process of identifying and redacting elements like faces, individuals, license plates, vehicles, screens, and paperwork in video content. Redacting has never been more seamless than with CaseGuard. In just a few clicks, your documents can be automatically redacted as shown in the video below.

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Interested in purchasing CaseGuard for your organization? Click here to request a live demo with one of our dedicated team members.

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