Why Video, Audio, & Document Redaction Is Important For You

Why Video, Audio, & Document Redaction Is Important For You

Redaction is the deliberate omission or concealment in a multimedia recording of information. It involves removing sensitive information from data such as documents, audio files, and videos. Redaction in its application may include but is not limited to, video recorded by body-worn cameras, 911 phone calls, digital video recorder systems, in-car video systems, jail or prison phone services, crime scene videos, crime scene photos, and video evidence collected during investigations.

As with paper documents, before releasing them outside the organization, it is normal for organizations to redact (black out) confidential information, material of a graphic nature, or information that is restricted by privacy provisions. Typically, it requires editing a digital text by censoring, but not necessarily omitting, specific words, phrases, or whole paragraphs. The sections to be redacted are essentially blacked out to prevent them from being read.

This is often done in government or court documents where these sections are blacked on individual copies that need to go to organizations or people who do not have the right authorization or privilege to know of certain pieces of information. If redaction is applied to electronic documents, however, it simply means the permanent removal of information and not the obscuring of it.

Reasons for Redaction

For varied reasons, law enforcement and organizations release multimedia. These include, but are not limited to:

Before release, an organization may be required to redact (mute) information contained within a recording. Redaction is most often necessary to preserve individuals’ privacy or to comply with regulations and laws governing the protection of information that is personally identifiable. These include, but are not limited to:

Before sending the content to the practitioner, decisions must be made on what information is to be redacted.

What is Video Redaction

Redaction may be used in the process of making unclassified portions of a secret recording available to the public or may be used to protect people’s privacy. An example of the redaction of video involves blurring the faces of people captured by surveillance cameras. This is necessary when the system is being tested or maintained by a person who lacks the required authorization to view faces, for example.

Forms of Video Redaction

When deciding on the most appropriate form of redaction, you have to carefully consider the desired outcome, based on the type of information you’ve been requested (if applicable) and any existing legal or organizational requirements. Two forms of redaction are discussed below.

Video Redaction Filters

There are several filters available for the redaction of video segments. The type, effect, and strength of the filter added to the recording will ultimately be determined by the video recording, video circumstances, justification for redaction, and organizational procedures.

Examples of commonly used filters in video redaction include mosaic, blur, and solid form (e.g., color-filled rectangle, oval, or circle). It is highly advisable to select a filter that is irreversible once rendered and exported from the video redaction software.

Combining multiple filters can also be used to ensure complete redaction of identifiable objects.

What is Audio Redaction

An audio-recording transcript is a written record of what has been said during the interview. It could be a transcript of an interview with a witness, a conversation by telephone like a 911 call, or videos from a video camera worn by a person.

Although getting a transcript of an audio from a recording is helpful, understanding what was being said is often necessary.

If the audio recording itself is released to another entity, then any sensitive information in that recording must also be deleted. This is referred to as audio redaction. The sensitive information is usually replaced by a controlled signal or silence.

Audio redaction should be based on a transcript provided by the requestor and marked with a clear indication of what content should be redacted. The findings should be checked for consistency upon completion of the redaction. Redacted audio should be substituted with a coherent and distinct regulated signal, but not distracting from the surrounding audio. The signal’s consistency indicates clearly to the listener that redaction has taken place.

If it is necessary to redact audio from a video recording, care must be taken to keep the audio and video streams synchronous.

What is PDF Redaction

Now that new documents are being generated on computers, filled out on computers, and exchanged via computers; it makes sense that computer programming options are the only way to redact sensitive information on PDFs. In PDF, redaction applies to the editing of text either by omission of certain details for publication. Recorded interviews are usually transcribed. Redaction removes portions of text or images from a PDF file indefinitely and replaces them with black rectangles. The remainder of the document is not compromised and can usually be viewed and printed.

PDF redaction involves two main steps – select areas for redaction, and then apply redactions:

OCR and Automated Redaction

There have been major technological advances in the 21st century that offer an automated option to the redaction process. Many companies have vast amounts of non-searchable, image-based PDFs, typically coming from design packages such as scans faxes, or outputs. Instead of using a dark marker on documents, many recorders now use OCR to analyze scanned images of paper documents.

OCR technology transforms scanned images into a digital format that allows search engines based on rules to identify sensitive information in the text. To recognize potentially confidential information, the search engine uses a combination of words, phrases, text patterns, proximity, and location. For example, in a document, the engine can find the keyword “SSN” followed by a pattern of numbers like xxx-xx-xxxx. Combining the keyword with the text format gives high confidence that the potentially sensitive information needs to be redacted.


Technology is required to redact information from recordings. Video redaction software allows importing, updating, modifying, and exporting of your recordings. Choosing video redaction software with adequate features is essential to perform redaction work within the framework of the practitioner’s organizational procedures and capabilities. The program should at least be able to decode different types of video and audio codecs, allowing recording to be trimmed and providing options for video and audio filters (e.g. blur, solid form, tone). We also recommended that the program be able to track objects automatically for the adjustment of shape, size, and location. Before use, emphasis should be placed on software testing and validation to ensure that once rendered, the results are irreversible.

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