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What is Redaction

Woman's face being blurred out to protect her privacy
July 12, 2022
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What is Redaction?

Due to the public nature of information sharing on the internet and social media platforms, sensitive and private material must be kept out of the public arena. Images and videos of the public are routinely captured and stored, from traffic signals to police body cameras to surveillance footage. 

There are several legal ramifications if this material is disseminated without authorized consent. 

Moreover, this information breach jeopardizes the safety and well-being of all parties concerned. Consequently, various types of media ranging from documents, photos or videos must be redacted before public release.

What does the term "redaction" mean?

Redaction refers to the removal or concealment of sensitive information before it is released or published. Anything that is shared with the public must first be redacted to mitigate any potential issues, whether it be medical records, legal documents, or educational materials. Furthermore, a redacted piece of media must leave no trace of the public information that existed before the process. Theoretically, every kind of media intended for public dissemination may, at some point, necessitate redaction.

Where did the word "redacted" come from originally?

The word "redacted" originates from the Latin redigere, which means "to collect, reduce, or arrange." The past participle of this verb, redactus, entered English as the word "redact" in the 15th century, initially meaning to arrange writing or thoughts into a unified structure. 

Major political reports, such as the 1988 Iran Contra hearings, have specified "redacted" as a new word that has replaced the word "censored".

What kind of information must be removed before dissemination to the public?

There are several circumstances in which documents should be redacted to remove sensitive information before being publicly released. For example, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5-2 restricts the filing of sensitive personal information such as:

• The last four numbers of a taxpayer's social security number 

• The year in which a person was born (not the specific month or day)

• Information pertaining to minors

• The final four digits of a financial account number

• Medical information

• Trade secrets

• Sensitive security-related data

• Any other unique identifiers

Types of files subject to redaction 

Redaction is necessary not just for documents but also for the information included in various digital file types in the current digital era.

Image redaction

Similar to documents, it's easy to conceal information in a single image, but the challenge multiplies when hundreds of images are involved.

By default, unlike documents, images are neither digitally readable nor indexed. You can't just type a person's name into the search field and discover their face among 100s of images. You'll need an artificial intelligence tool to index faces, objects, and on-screen text.

The whole process takes longer with images than with documents. You'll need to draw a box around the object of interest each time. An AI-based solution that delivers one-click redaction can expedite the procedure for you.

Video Redaction

Video data is distinct and has its own set of issues. Whether you have a single video or hundreds, you are likely to encounter the following obstacles:

  • Video files contain numerous frames, and the location of the object of interest may change between frames. Think about cutting out a person dancing in a video. In this scenario, you would require an AI-powered solution for monitoring a moving figure over numerous frames.
  • Videos are not digitally readable or indexed by default, similar to image files. In fact, it's worse than that! A search box is ineffective; you cannot spend hours watching thousands of films to identify a person's face. You require a technology that employs artificial intelligence for video indexing of faces*, objects, spoken phrases, and on-screen text.
  • Why? Because video files are so large, processing them for redaction will take considerably more time and requires appropriate hardware capabilities. (This is why it's advisable to choose a cloud-based application rather than one that has to be installed on your computer!) This is because a cloud application requires no specific computer resources on your device.

Audio Redaction

Redacting portions of audio recordings is relatively easy, as it entails bleeping or silencing relevant passages. However, the following obstacles may be encountered:

  • Similar to images and videos, audio files are not as thoroughly indexed. However, indexing them is simpler because you just need the transcript of the file. We advise searching for a solution that supports AI-based search and transcribing. This allows you to easily determine where specific pieces of information exist across hundreds of audio files.
  • Your audio file may have background noise, which decreases the accuracy of the automated transcription. If information is omitted and not indexed, it may be impossible to redact it entirely. When creating a transcript, searching for a technology that eliminates background noise is advisable. Look for an alternative that allows you to upload a transcript manually.

Why is Redaction so important?

Redaction is crucial because it protects individuals' personal data by deleting it from public documents. Typically, redaction is mandated by compliance or the law. Nevertheless, it is also an ethical obligation to protect the privacy of persons and organizations. 

Breach of sensitive PII can result in identity theft and information abuse, resulting in physical, economic, or social harm to an individual. Courts also encourage it as part of their best practices for redaction. 

Rule 5.2 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the confidentiality of PII. According to this guideline, any PII unrelated to the case must be redacted.

Other laws which necessitate the redaction of PPI:


In the HIPAA guideline, redaction falls within the de-identification standard. This rule applies to covered entities (healthcare organizations and business affiliates) that handle Patient Health Information (PHI).


Article 9, Article 15, and Article 17 of the GDPR cover redaction.

Organizations that utilize CCTV cameras to collect personal data of individuals located within the EU and EEA must follow GDPR guidelines in order to maintain compliance and avoid GDPR Fines.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act is a statute that permits citizens to request the disclosure of information kept by government entities. However, public entities are excluded from disclosing material that falls under one of the FOIA's nine exemptions. This includes personally identifiable information.

Woman's face being blurred out to protect her privacy

California Court Rules

According to Section (a) of Rule 1.201 of the California Rules of Court, all personal information in court filings must be redacted.

Rule 8.83 of the California Rules of Court stipulates that records must be accessible to the public. However, any personally identifiable information must be removed prior to public dissemination.

Redaction software makes redaction easy

While redaction has typically referred to the censorship of private information found in legal documents, redaction software is now available that will disguise the faces and personal information included in images, audio recordings, videos, and pdfs.

During an urgent 911 call, for instance, personal information might be redacted so that the call can be shared with the media. Alternately, video redaction software enables license plates on moving vehicles to be blurred or pixelated on the screen, giving the public yet another method of protecting personal information. 

In addition, we can now automatically redact media in a matter of minutes, drastically lowering both time and expenses.

These software choices utilize cutting-edge artificial intelligence to automatically discover any unique identifiers that may be present in a certain kind of media. For instance, you may decide to delete all faces from CCTV footage depicting a robbery before showing the clip on the evening news. 

Before the invention of automated detection, this would have been a lengthy, laborious, and painful procedure. However, with this capability, the user can just click a button to filter a vast amount of information. 

Moreover, capabilities such as bulk redaction and email redaction give users another method for redacting massive volumes of information that would otherwise be impossible to remove. 

At Sighthound, we work extremely hard to fulfill the ever-changing need for redaction services by providing customers with the best tools to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

Get Started with Sighthound Redactor