How Can I Redact Personal Information From a PDF File?

How Can I Redact Personal Information From a PDF File?

As technology continues to advance and more forms of online communication are being used, it is imperative that proper redaction methods are made available to consumers. As such, many businesses and organizations may come across instances in which they are required to redact sensitive information from PDF files. Whether these files contain trade or company secrets or simply personally identifiable information such as names and pictures, these files must first be redacted before being released to the public. Moreover, the ways in which these files can be redacted will vary on the specific needs and desires of the business at hand. As an example, some common forms of PDF redaction include both manual and automatic redaction.

Redact a PDF Manually

Manual PDF redaction is the process of going through a PDF, by hand and removing any private or personal information before it is released to the public. A common example of a PDF document that was manually redacted was the Mueller Report which investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Due to the extreme nature of the report and various government and political figures who were involved, manual redaction was used to individually censor all those who were not involved to keep their personal information private. The primary benefit of manual redaction is that consumers can ensure that they attain 100% accuracy, while a primary disadvantage is the time and cost that can be associated with manually redacting a large number of documents.

When looking to manually redact a PDF, using redaction software like CaseGuard Studio, users have the option to draw solid boxes over personal information, much like what was done in the Mueller Report. For instance, if someone were looking to redact all personal information from a resume in an attempt to make a bias-free hiring decision, they could opt for manual redaction. Alternatively, manual redaction could also be used by a law firm looking to redact a particular PDF for use in a lawsuit or pending case. Furthermore, users have the ability to change the color of these manual redactions, so that they can keep their work as comprehensive and organized as possible.

Redact PDF automatically

Automatic PDF redaction substitutes the efforts of human hands for the technological capabilities of AI software programs. Using redaction software like CaseGuard Studio, allow users to choose from a drop-down list or menu and select what level of redaction they would like to apply to a given PDF. The primary benefit of this approach is that it allows users to redact bulk documents in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually. For example, users have the option to find and redact all words from a particular PDF file. What’s more, PDF redaction software offerings also allow users to find and redact patterns that may appear within PDFs. To illustrate this, a school administrator may be looking to redact a PDF containing the names and dates of various high school seniors who recently graduated. Instead of doing this manually, the find and redact patterns feature would recognize this information and allow users to simply click the redact all button to remove this information.

caseguard studio 'find-and-redact' panel

Conversely, analytics features allow users to delve deeper into PDF redaction, providing users with a further measure of control when looking to censor personal information. Unlike the find and redact feature, the analytics feature allows users to create their own metric from which to find and redact a document with. As an example, a lawyer may be working on a case in a remote midwestern town with a Native American name in a language that is no longer spoken. This town name might not be able to be detected through other automatic PDF redaction features due to how scarce and obscure the language is. However, the lawyer in this scenario could type the town name into the analytics feature and have the software recognize the town name as a pattern.


Whether a consumer opts for manual or automatic PDF redaction will hinge largely on the task at hand. For large-scale PDF redactions that may include thousands of files with various forms of information, performing manual redaction would simply not be a feasible option. On the contrary, there are certain instances such as major lawsuits and cases involving political figures or celebrities in which the extra care and nuance that a human would provide the situation greatly outweighs any technological ability to convenience.

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