Best Redaction Tools

The records you hold on individuals need to be protected from disclosure; however, those individuals also have the right to demand a copy of the information contained on them. Sometimes, stores of information don’t hold individual bits of information about each individual. In these cases, releasing the information in context to one person would also disclose the information held that identifies another person. Redacting, which means blanking out sections of text, solves this problem

When releasing a document in response to a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR), you need to make sure that you don’t disclose information relating to another person. That other person might be an employee of your business or a worker in an associated company that annotated or processed the individual’s record.

Rather than printing out each document and scoring over text with a marker pen, you can deploy an automated system that will work out what text relates to which person and obscure passages in each version that relate to just one individual.

Here is our list of the 9 best redaction software and tools:

  1. Objective Redact EDITOR’S CHOICE A document management system for sensitive data that includes an automated redaction system and also has tools for manual redaction. This service handles PDFs, Word files, and scanned documents. Installs on Windows.
  2. PDFtron A SaaS toolkit for redacting PDFs that can also work on your device offline. Includes the option to altogether remove elements from a PDF or just obscure them.
  3. Egress Respond A redaction tool for emails that offers automatic redaction or tools for manual redaction. It operates as a cloud mail server, and there are also versions for Outlook and access apps for Windows, iOS, and Android.
  4. Ideagen PleaseReview A cloud-based management system for documents that includes collaboration features and automated redaction services for PDFs.
  5. Extract ID Shield An automated service that can identify and redact PII and PHI, and it can be tailored to meet specific standards requirements. This is a cloud service.
  6. EverMap AutoRedact A plug-in for Adobe Acrobat that automatically redacts specific categories of sensitive data. It runs on Windows.
  7. Relativity Text IQ for Personal Information An information management platform that includes eDiscovery, document security, and text redaction. This is a cloud-based system.
  8. Folding Space Automated Redaction Manager Recommended by the UK government for GDPR, this sensitive data service discovers and manages PII in all types of document format and outputs in PDF. This is a SaaS system.
  9. CaseGuard An online service that can redact video, audio, and images, as well as documents. The company also offers a managed service where CaseGuard staff will run the redaction software for you.

Scrubbing a document

When dealing with electronic documents, mainly PDFs, obscuring identifiers for different people isn’t as simple as it seems. There might be helpful information in the file’s metadata that relates to someone other than the recipient of the redacted document.

Other elements of documents often overlooked in manual redaction include images, graphs, and statistics tables. Manual redaction can also be haphazard, revealing the top of the bottom of a line of text, or the colored ink is not always strong enough to obscure the information. Graphical processes can occlude text much better.

Redaction software

The two main benefits of using redaction software are that it produces impenetrable overlays and it ensures that every piece of identifying information is spotted. Two more advantages of using software for redaction are that they log everything and don’t make mistakes.

Using redaction software means that even employees don’t get to see the occluded information that has been obscured for privacy purposes. That means that Customer Service agents can’t accidentally disclose the information of another person when dealing with a DSAR request.

Redaction software works quickly and consistently, performing a timely, professional service for your system’s customers.

Redacted data isn’t lost. The original information is still stored securely. Therefore, the entire document is still available to be adapted in the case of the other people in the original document subsequently submitting a DSAR.

There are uses for redaction other than fulfilling DSARs securely. For example, you might want to preserve company secrets while still complying with a court order for documents held within your system.

The main format used for disseminating electronic documents is PDF. So, you will need to look for redaction tools that can operate on PDFs.

The Best Redaction Software and Tools

Redaction is necessary for processing electronic documents. It isn’t a process that you would use for extracting information from a database. Redaction won’t be required for every document that you release. However, a redaction software package that can scan all documents to identify which need redaction is a handy tool to have.

What should you look for in a redaction tool? 

We reviewed the market for redaction software and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • A system that can operate on PDFs
  • A service that can generate PDFs of redacted documents
  • A secure system that can operate without disclosing sensitive information to operators
  • Redaction systems for images as well as text
  • A metadata scrubber
  • An assessment period through a free trial or a money-back guarantee
  • Value for money that is represented by competent security software at a reasonable price

We wanted to find low-priced redaction software, but savings are no use if the tool’s results aren’t good enough to protect you from prosecution for disclosing sensitive data. So, there is a minimum level of expectation that we applied to the redaction software we chose.

1. Objective Redact EDITOR’S CHOICE

Objective Redact

Objective Redact is on-premises software that offers a range of redaction options. This tool can search through scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). So, it can redact just about anything. Without putting your files on paper, you can use the Objective Redact system to redact electronic documents in PDF and Word format.

Key Features:

  • Accepts document scans
  • Automated document processing
  • Manual redaction option
  • Preserves the original document
  • Stores amended files as PDFs

Why do we recommend it?

The useful feature of the redaction system in Objective Redact is that it offers options for automated document processing and manual redaction tools. This means it covers just about every scenario that a business might encounter when managing PII. Another reason this tool is highly recommended is that the redaction service is just part of the full document processing package, which includes scanning for paper documents and OCR for text recognition. As well as processing new documents, the service is able to scan through folders of existing electronic documents – both scanned images and files created with weird processors.

The Objective Redact package offers a range of tools that include manual redaction systems plus document searches for eDiscovery and automated processes that can be applied individually or in bulk to documents. Redaction results can be saved to PDF or TIFF files.

Who is it recommended for?

Any business that holds PII will benefit from the document management services of this tool. However, those enterprises that deal with a lot of paper-based correspondence with members of the public, particularly legal firms and government departments will need a fully integrated scanning, indexing, storage, and redaction system like this.

Pros:

  • Provides a batch-processing script
  • Creates copies of documents rather than overwriting them
  • Can use OCR to replicate printed documents for redaction
  • Generates compliance reports
  • Data formats that spot specific data types, such as social security numbers

Cons:

  • Needs to be hosted

This system is straightforward to use and is available in a single-user version (Quick Project) for small businesses or a Team package for large companies. The team system includes an administrator console to control user accounts, and it gives you access to up to 20 users. Larger businesses should go for the Enterprise plan. The system is charged per month for the Quick Project plan or per user per year for the multi-user plans. The software package installs on Windows 7, 8, and 10 and you can examine Objective Redaction on a free trial.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Objective Redact is our top pick for redaction software because it covers all of the options anyone would need to perform sensitive document management and DSAR information releases. The system includes utilities for manual redaction and also has automated redaction services for bulk document processing. It can operate on PDFs, Word documents, and scanned documents, which covers just about all of the document types that you will encounter in your business.

Get a free trial: objective.co.uk/products/objective-redact#trial-form

Operating system: Windows

2. PDFtron

PDFtron

PDFtron offers an online toolkit for PDF creation and editing, and it includes a range of redaction tools. The PDFtron package gives you the ability to redact manually and also with automated processes.

Key Features:

  • Website interface
  • Operates on uploaded documents
  • Redacted documents returned as PDFs
  • Desktop version available

Why do we recommend it?

PDFtron is a good competitor to Objective Redact at low document processing volumes. This service requires you to upload documents to a website, which slows down throughput. However, its options for manual and automated redaction make it a flexible tool for a range of use cases.

As the name implies, PDFtron is all about PDFs. However, as you can use the system to convert any document format into a PDF, that means you can use this system to redact any document. Although this is an online tool, it is possible to use the redaction software through a desktop or mobile app even when offline.

The redaction tools in the system include deep scrubbing of metadata, and it is also able to redact images and graphics. A document under the process of manual redaction can be shared to gather the opinion of others.

Who is it recommended for?

This system has collaboration features and metadata scrubbing, which make it an interesting anonymizing system for other scenarios as well as PII management. For example, a business that wants to reuse data for advertising could use this system. Automation and the possibility to integrate the service into workflows means that data checking can be implemented before document release.

Pros:

  • Scrubs metadata as well as redacting text
  • Can be integrated into automated workflows
  • Batch document processing possible
  • Can be embedded into a Web page

Cons:

  • Mobile app version can drain battery

Automated redaction is also possible with the PDFtron toolkit. That automation can be applied to individual documents or document stores in bulk. The processes can also be integrated into automated workflows. You can assess PDFtron on a free trial.

3. Egress Respond

Egress Respond

Egress Respond has a unique angle on redaction that is very useful for communications around DSARs – it focuses on email redaction. This is a cloud mail server. You can use it to send and receive secure emails. Those emails don’t get downloaded into your email client. Instead, you log into the Egress server to read and send mail.

Key Features:

  • Email redaction
  • Intended for DSAR responses
  • Integration for Outlook

Why do we recommend it?

The Egress Response tool is ideal for dealing with communications with the public that could involve documents that relate to multiple people. You can send out documents in response to a DSAR and be sure that references to people other than the requestor will be automatically redacted. The redaction applies to attachments as well as email body text.

The single platform for email makes control and supervision easier to implement. However, this isn’t the only option for email redaction with Egress Respond. The tool can also be integrated into Outlook, and there are also apps for Windows, iOS, and Android that provide direct access to the Egress system.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is a good option for businesses that are only concerned with redacting data when it is released to a member of the public. There are many circumstances where internal access to data can only be safely permitted if redaction is in place because the member of staff that needs to process the document doesn’t have the authority to see the PII contained within. In these examples, Egress Response won’t be of any use.

Pros:

  • Scans through emails and attachments and applies redaction
  • Leaves the original document unaltered
  • Designed for communication that respond to Data Subject Access Requests

Cons:

  • Doesn’t impose internal privacy standards

Egress offers a range of secure email and file-sharing services from its platform, and the document management system can be integrated into its secure email service. The redaction service automatically scans emails for crucial information and redacts that data before the email is sent. You can book a demo to assess the system.

4. Ideagen PleaseReview

Ideagen PleaseReview

The Ideagen Document Management System, which is called PleaseReview, is a secure document store that includes automated redaction systems plus tools for manual redaction. Creating a central document store within the Ideagen system increases the options for control. It also enables secure document sharing and collaboration without copies being taken outside the platform.

Key Features:

  • Can redact images as well as documents
  • Version control
  • Includes access controls

Why do we recommend it?

Ideagen PleaseReview is three tools in one. If you identify a data loss prevention tool that you would like to use but are put off because it doesn’t have data discovery, you could pair it up with PleaseReview because the eDiscovery system in this package can locate and categorize PII and automatically retune for a given data protection standard. The redaction system offers two implementation scenarios because it can be applied automatically without damaging the original document and there is also a manual redaction system that is integrated into a document review tool that has note making and collaboration features.

Ideagen offers eDiscovery and data classification for the documents in its storage service. That system will adapt to specific privacy standards. The redaction tools in the Ideagen package are automated. The second feature of this tool is its action logging process. This is a helpful utility for businesses that need to follow a data privacy standard, where action tracking is essential.

Who is it recommended for?

The bundle of services in PleaseReview means that it has many different use cases. As noted above, its eDiscovery services will be enough for many businesses whether or not they expect to need to redact data. The redaction can be applied automatically without damaging the underlying data, so it is a good system for internal access to documents as well as for securing documents for release in response to a DSAR.

Pros:

  • Automatically scans documents and redacts test according to policy
  • Controls access to sensitive documents and manages comments
  • Creates versions of redacted documents and also generates activity records for compliance

Cons:

  • No free trial

Finally, the Ideagen service automatically generates justification reports to present the reasons for redaction. You can assess the redaction features in Ideagen PleaseReview on a demo.

5. Extract ID Shield

Extract ID Shield

Extract ID Shield is a cloud service suitable for redacting legal documents, PCI DSS documentation, HIPAA documents, and PII data for GDPR compliance. This system is robust in enforcing the legal requirements for redaction in the USA. The system has many public sector customers.

Key Features:

  • Adapts to a specific standard
  • Changes in line with the law
  • Fast processing

Why do we recommend it?

Extract ID Shield has a very large user base in the USA. It is common to use the popularity of a product as an indication of its worth and in that case, this tool should be number one on our list – at least for US readers. The system’s eDiscovery module is reliable and its extensive use by US government departments and legal firms is a testimony to its accuracy. The system is cloud-based, which means that its processes and software get updated automatically behind the scenes without you having to get an administrator to update the system.

The Extract system is a great timesaver and performs redactions very quickly, making fulfilling DSARs very easy. The service begins through an eDiscovery search that identifies and classifies each instance of sensitive data in your document store. Those specified documents can then have redaction applied to them.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is a very good choice for small legal firms in the USA because you don’t need an IT department to run it. The Extract client list also indicates that it is a good choice for local, state, and federal government agencies in the USA. Despite its cloud location, this system is able to operate on data that is held on your servers, so it doesn’t have the throughput brake of needing documents to be uploaded.

Pros:

  • Performs eDiscovery to identify documents containing sensitive data
  • Uses its own customized rules that can spot non-standard formats for sensitive data
  • Operates in the cloud

Cons:

  • Specifically designed for use in the United States

You can request a demo to assess Extract ID Shield.

6. EverMap AutoRedact

EverMap AutoRedact

EverMap AutoRedact is probably the most suitable tool in this list for small businesses. It is offered as a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat, and it installs on Windows. This tool includes automated processes that can apply redaction to a series of documents. This is a straightforward tool to use if you are a regular user of Adobe Acrobat.

Key Features:

  • Redacts PDFs
  • Plugs into Adobe Acrobat
  • Can implement batch processing

Why do we recommend it?

EverMap AutoRedact can be considered to be an on-premises version of PDFTron. It only operates on PDFs but you don’t have to upload files to a website in order to get them processed. One problem with this tool is that it will redact the document for storage, so you will have to hold the original and then redact each document in response to a DSAR and store that as well before sending it out. As some documents might mention many people, this can result in many copies of the same document being stored.

Although the inclusion in Acrobat means the system only operates on PDFs, it is easy to store any electronic documents, including scanned document images, into a PDF; this essentially makes it possible to impose redaction on any document. There are also manual redaction tools in the EverMap package.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is good for low-volume scenarios, mainly because it doesn’t operate on the fly like Egress Response. If your business only wants the non-PII data in documents and will never need to refer to personal information, this tool is ideal because you can redact everything when you receive the document and then you just need to hold one copy without being liable for compliance.

Pros:

  • The user defines fields to redact
  • The system will search through a document and redact all instances of a given data value
  • Can be automated across batches of documents by creating a dictionary of words to redact

Cons:

  • Doesn’t operate in the newer SasaS version of Adobe Acrobat

You can download a demo version of EverMap AutoRedact.

7. Relativity Text IQ for Personal Information

Text IQ for Privacy

Text IQ has created an AI-based redaction system that produces excellent results for companies following GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA. This service resolves the thorny problem of prioritizing privacy while also fulfilling DSAR obligations.

Key Features:

  • Focused on PI
  • eDiscovery
  • Designed for DSAR responses

Why do we recommend it?

Relativity Text IQ is a very sophisticated tool for automated data redaction that can be applied in the data viewer, to copies of existing data, or to original documents coming in before they are stored in your system. As well as working well, the screens for the service look good – which is a consideration for keeping the user community happy. The only shortfall of this tool when comparing it to other tools on this list is that it doesn’t have a manual redaction system.

The tool integrates expertise, which is very useful for removing human error and the danger of clerks overlooking instances of sensitive data. The service starts by identifying cases of PII and categorizing them. Text IQ offers automated redaction on request. The document is stored in its original form, and then the redaction can be turned on.

Who is it recommended for?

Relativity Text IQ is a reliable service for automated redaction and it works very well with high volumes of data. It can identify existing data stores and categorize them according to specific data protection standards. This readies the system to instantly apply the appropriate redaction when a document is accessed for viewing. Text IQ can be used to protect PII from internal disclosure as well as to prepare documents for release under DSAR.

Pros:

  • Tailored for GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS
  • Discovery and classification of sensitive data
  • DSAR management

Cons:

  • Recently taken over by a new company, the tool is likely to change

The total Text IQ for Privacy system offers a full DSAR management service. You can get a demo of Text IQ for Privacy to assess it for yourself.

8. Folding Space Automated Redaction Manager

Folding Space Automated Redaction Manager

Folding Space Automated Redaction Manager comes highly recommended. It is detailed on the UK government’s website that advises on GDPR compliance. This automated system is suitable for companies that have a large volume of documents to redact.

Key Features:

  • Discover personal data
  • Amend the original document or a copy
  • Redaction automation

Why do we recommend it?

Folding Space Automated Redaction Manager is a high-volume processor of sensitive data that is particularly tuned to GDPR. This service includes an eDiscovery service that identifies sensitive data in your current system as well as indexing and classifying new documents as they are stored. The service can operate on any format of document and can be integrated into the generation of PDFs for release to a member of the public in response to a DSAR.

This system includes the discovery of sensitive data in file stores and the classification of types of PII. The tool can handle any kind of electronic format for input and outputs redacted version in PDF or redacted data stream.

Who is it recommended for?

Although this is an excellent tool for use anywhere in the world, it is specifically marketed to UK businesses and relates to GDP, so it is only needed for processing documents in Europe. The deployment flexibility of the tool is a winner because you can install it on your own server or use it as a cloud service, so it caters to any infrastructure strategy.

Pros:

  • Focused on GDPR
  • Batch processing of documents
  • DSAR management

Cons:

  • Specifically designed for use in the UK

Automated redaction can be integrated into workflows to speed up DSAR management. Users require accounts to access the system, and that ties into a comprehensive action logging system.

9. CaseGuard

CaseGuard

CaseGuard is an impressive data redactor, especially for video. This system can spot license plates on cars, faces, address indicators, and blur them out. The service can apply the same visual redaction in images. As well as text, video, and images, CaseGuard can process audio and bleep out sensitive data.

Key Features:

  • Redacts documents, audio, images, and video
  • Automated detection of sensitive image details
  • A range of use cases

Why do we recommend it?

Although CaseGuard isn’t the only video redaction system in the world it is probably the best in terms of functionality and affordability. The system will generate transcripts of audio and video and simultaneously identify names, which can be selectively redacted later while keeping the original in its pristine state. The video and audio redaction services are easy to use and very well implemented.

This system can work through large batches of files in a range of formats. The CaseGuard service can also provide automated transcripts of video and audio, which will also be suitably redacted.

Who is it recommended for?

Not many businesses will need this tool for serving DSAR requests because not many businesses hold surveillance footage with identifications for individuals. However, media businesses will have a great deal of use for video redaction. The automated blurring of faces, street signs, and car registration plates is very impressive. Legal firms and government departments that regularly deal with audio and video evidence will need this tool – it works for images as well. The reliability of CaseGuard and its ease of use means that you don’t need specialist video editing skills to operate it.

Pros:

  • Impressive detection of faces, license plates, street names, etc in video
  • Good for redacting personal information from documents
  • Generates redacted transcripts of video and audio

Cons:

  • No self-hosting option

CaseGuard is an impressive service that has few rivals in its specialized field. You can get a look at it by requesting a demo.