How to Properly Redact PDF files

Redaction—or rather, the failure to properly redact—hits the news periodically as everyone from private companies to government organizations occasionally mistakenly releases confidential information that someone supposedly removed. The most recent case involves the Australian Federal Police, who unwittingly sent confidential information in pdf documents to parliament, where it was made public via governmental web sites.

That’s doubly unfortunate, because redacting content in a PDF document is fairly easy. The problem is, some users don’t know how to perform it properly.

Here’s what not to do. Simply placing a black block over text you want to redact isn’t sufficient. The text is still there. Anyone can access it simply by putting their cursor over the area and copying and pasting to another document.

The same is true for images. Putting a black colored block over an image isn’t sufficient to ensure that the image is unobtainable.

Now here’s what you should do.

Use pdf software such as Foxit PhantomPDF Business, which contains true redaction features. These tools let you permanently remove (redact) visible text and images from PDF documents to protect confidential information such as social security numbers.

Their straightforward and easy-to-use redaction allows you to quickly select and redact any text or image permanently. The redaction is utterly secure, removing the original text or image from the document and placing a black mark over the area to signify that content has been removed. No one can simply hover over the area to copy and paste, because the content is gone, period.  You can even change the color of the mark from black to something different.

Using redaction tools, you can distribute files with confidence by permanently removing sensitive data, such social security numbers, credit card information, and product launch dates, ensuring no confidential information gets accidentally distributed.

How to redact using Foxit PhantomPDF software

Using Foxit PhantomPDF Business, redaction is a simple two-phase process that lets you first mark the text or graphics for Redaction, and then apply the redaction.

Mark for Redaction

To mark the text or graphics for redaction, do the following:

  • Select PROTECT > Redaction > Mark for Redaction, and the hand tool changes into a Cross automatically.
  • (Optional)Double-click an image to mark an entire image.
  • (Optional)Hold the pointer over the text you want to redact and drag a rectangle around it.
  • The rectangle will be filled with black color.

Apply Redactions

  • You need to apply the redactions after marking the text or graphics you want to redact. To apply the redaction, do the following:
  • Select PROTECT > Redaction > Apply Redactions.

A dialog box pops up to give a warning message and asks if you’re sure to apply the redaction or not. Select Apply after you’ve marked all content that you want to redact and that’s it. The content is gone forever. (Which is one reason it’s a two-phase process, as this step can’t be undone. That’s why saving a backup copy is recommended.)

Search and Remove Text

You can also search for text that you want to redact in order to ensure it’s removed throughout your PDF document. Simply do the following:

  • Select PROTECT > Redaction > Search and Redact.
  • Type the text you wish to redact into the search dialogue box and select search.
  • Check the results you want to redact.
  • Click the button Mark Checked Results for Redaction at the bottom of the search dialogue box.
  • Choose PROTECT> Redaction > Apply Redactions.

All in all, redaction features in PDF software can help ensure your organization isn’t the next one to hit the news for putting confidential information where it doesn’t belong.


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