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Best Practices for Video Redaction

Medical tech pushes a gurney through the halls of the hospital past staff and patients, thinking about the best practices for video redaction.
July 26, 2022
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Complying with the law is just one reason to ensure privacy compliance. Although adhering to legislation will go a long way toward preventing legal proceedings or fines, there are plenty of other reasons to consider establishing a comprehensive privacy policy that adequately protects consumers and workers. 

The security of your customer and staff data is critical to the success and sustainability of your organization. To avoid data breaches, companies and other organizations need to establish data security policies and procedures that are robust and consistently executed.

But, how does your business deal with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) programs that need to adapt and evolve constantly?

In this article, we answer that question by highlighting video redaction best practices to consider for your FOIA program.

Video Redaction Best Practice Guidelines

The Video Redaction Working Group of the Technology Committee contends that "FOIA professionals must be able to respond to requests for emerging types of Federal records within the statutory mandates.

Here are several best-practice guidelines for organizations to consider as they review and redact video records:

Redaction from the get-go

Video redaction should be considered as soon as your firm starts using video capture technology. Preparation and planning for video redactions are essential to handle requests for video records. 

When faced with statutory or court-ordered production timelines, waiting for the first video request forces an organization to scramble for substandard solutions in a hurry.

Use the correct redaction tool 

The complexity and ease of use of video redaction technologies vary. Finding the best redaction tool specifically for your purposes is determined by the following factors: 

  • Number of video record requests 
  • The format, size, and content of the recordings 
  • Your budget 
  • Capabilities of your staff 

Some organizations may demand full-featured video redaction software akin to Hollywood post-production editing suites. In contrast, others may require a more basic web-or cloud-based application that may even be included in your video recording software package. 

In addition, organizations should consider updating hardware to support software tools and security concerns with cloud-based systems.

Find your expert

It's just as important to find the right person to fulfill the role of redaction specialist as it is to locate the best tool for the job. Your budget may determine the right person for the job, the number of requests you make, and the complexity of the content.

FOIA employees

To handle video redactions internally, your present FOIA team may need training, or you may need to hire new staff. Organizations report that adding digital skills and talent to their teams gives them the flexibility to keep ahead of the competition. Consider including video editing abilities in job descriptions and performance plans.

Other skilled employees 

Many organizations have personnel or program offices outside the FOIA staff with existing video redaction skills and expertise. Engage individuals in your organization utilizing video production tools to help your FOIA program. 

Some government agencies offer in-house video studios and personnel who can share resources, assist with redaction, and teach your FOIA team. 

Other organizations may consider sending individuals with video redaction abilities to the FOIA office to cover short-term or unanticipated video redaction requests, particularly if their FOIA teams are already operating at capacity.

Consider hiring contractors

Whether it is skill or capacity concerns, many organizations are onboarding contractors ad hoc can benefit low-volume cases. While employing a contractor may be more expensive in the short term, outsourcing this task may help your organization to avoid the costs of purchasing video editing software and training or recruiting agency workers to perform required redactions. With statutory or court-ordered time constraints, this method may bring efficiency gains.

Right process, correct release 

Use the correct procedure to extract exempt and releasable material from video recordings. Organizations can blur or black out parts of the screen, artificially alter the voices of people on the screen, erase audio tracks, or eliminate sections of the record. 

Consider the least obtrusive redaction option, which permits the most non-exempt content to be released.

Consider your timeframe

Video redactions can be tedious, taking a substantial amount of time. Video redaction often requires a frame-by-frame review of video records, depending on the length and content of the video records and your firm's video redaction tools and employees. 

A five-minute video could involve redacting 9,000 frames at 30 frames per second! Each frame may need a processor to redact several sections and apply numerous exclusions. Consider carefully the effort when adopting a redaction method and assigning personnel. 

(Pro Tip: Use this easy, straightforward redaction tool to avoid the frustration and wasting any time on lengthy redaction processes!)

Communication is essential

Communicate with the requester early and frequently about the specific concerns that processing video recordings necessitate. Set expectations for the requester so they know how long the process may take, and consider working with the requester to reduce the scope of the request to accelerate processing timeframes. 

To obtain the records quicker, a requester may be ready to specify a particular segment of the video or even accept screenshot stills of the video. Requests may also include needs to only redact specific objects or people.  And file exports may demand specific file types based on storage approach. 

Retention schedules 

It's important to know what camera footage your organization makes or keeps and how long it must be kept. Video retention timelines might vary greatly depending on how your organization uses the footage. 

Closed circuit security video may only be required to be kept for 30 days, although some law enforcement investigational records may be required to be kept for up to 75 years. 

Following a retention plan and having access to the video files guarantees that the requester community obtains the data to which they are entitled. 

In addition, organizations should provide video retention, storage, and electronic reading room requirements for video data gathered and processed by the FOIA office.

Ensure compliance with Sighthound Redactor

Courts now realize that since [video] editing is commonplace and affordable, no organization can legitimately argue that it lacks access to this technology. Other courts have decided that believing an organization could not redact footage correctly "would strain belief." 

Consequently, FOIA specialists must be ready to respond to requests for new categories of federal records while staying within the bounds of the law. It should be a goal to develop—or have access to—a video redaction component for your FOIA program.

Sighthound provides the most powerful, dependable, and user-friendly video redaction system available today, employed by over 1300 organizations, agencies, and cities across the globe. While video redaction has become an unavoidable reality in a world where everyone may record anything with their smartphone, it does not have to be demanding or time-consuming. 

You don't need prior experience redacting or editing videos to use Sighthound Redactor. Its simple operations make editing and collaboration a breeze! 

If you have any questions about video redaction or are eager to learn more about Sighthound Redactor, don't hesitate to get in touch with our team! We are more than happy to help with your business becoming FOIA compliant.

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