When redaction goes wrong

Information accidentally revealed by lawyers working for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is said to be "the clearest public evidence of coordination between the campaign and Russians." The error revealed prosecutors "apparently believe that Manafort shared internal Trump polling data with the suspected spy Konstantin Kilimnik during the campaign."

The controversial revelations were meant to have been redacted. Yet they turned out to be fully searchable.

The Manafort redaction error could have been avoided.

Redaction of the document in the Manafort case appears to have been attempted in Word or PDF by drawing a black box over the text or highlighting it in black. When the document was converted to PDF and distributed, the text layer was still there. Readers quickly discovered they could highlight the ‘redacted’ text under the black boxes, copy and paste it, and thereby reveal the contents.

Dean Sappey , the creator of PDF file editing and redaction tool pdfDocs and CEO and Co-Founder of DocsCorp , explains why masking is not redacting: “Masking text only adds another layer to the document.

“This layer can be peeled back to reveal what is underneath. Proper redaction – widely available in PDF file editors, including pdfDocs – completely removes any trace of the text from the PDF.”

This incident is the latest in a string of high-profile disclosures.

“We have seen highly sensitive information leaked from massive organizations like Facebook and PepsiCo simply because people weren’t educated about proper redaction,” said Sappey.

“Our responsibility in the PDF technology industry is to continue to educate users that they must use a proper redaction tool to keep information secure. We hope all law firms will take this as further evidence that proper redaction tools should always be used.”