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Everything You Need To Know About Document Redaction

by | Sep 10, 2020

Intro: What Is Redaction?

Redacting a document allows us to hide sensitive information by scrubbing text and replacing the area with a black redaction box. Documents are redacted so they can be shared with a wider audience. Redactions are mostly used on identifiable information such as:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Driver Licenses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses

How to Redact in VirtualViewer® HTML5

Note: When marking an area for redaction on a document, the underlying text will remain visible to all users when viewed within the original document. Redactions are permanently applied when saving a redacted version of a document. Only that version (not the original) is considered a redacted document.

Manually: VirtualViewer® HTML5 helps you redact documents manually using the ‘Redaction Area’ button on the annotation toolbar. The user can drag the mouse to create a translucent rectangle over the area that is going to be redacted.

Selecting by Text: Select the desired text to redact. Right click and then select Redact from the menu.

Redact by Search: In the search tab, using Basic Search, search for the term(s) to redact, then select Redact Current Match or Redact All Matches. Search and redact results do not account for content which may appear in images, as well as in non-text line art. Redactions for content in images should be created using the manual redaction tool. Search and redact results should not be considered a fully thorough mechanism to ensure all expected content has been discovered.

Redact by Pattern: In the Search Tab, change the search to one of the following pre-defined patterns and select Search Document. The user can then choose to Redact Current Match, or Redact All Matches.

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • Email Addresses
Example of email and phone number pattern search.

Redaction Tagging

Redaction tagging assigns a categorical value to individual redactions. The values are reasons why the redaction exists. For example, a social security number could be tagged with a Social Security Number value.

Tags can be configured in the annotationTags array in config.js. For example:

annotationTags: [“Social Security Number”, “Review”],

Redaction Configurations:

We have more configurations for redactions in config.js:

The default values for the color of the redaction rectangles is black. This can be changed, along with the opacity of the redaction highlight, while the user is still viewing the document in the viewer.

redactionFillColor: “000000”,
redactionOpacity: 0.5,

Since redactions are only applied and burned-in when a document is exported/printed, some settings are related to the default values on the export/print dialog. In config.js:

includeRedactions: true,

A default value for the Burn Redactions checkbox in Save/Export/Email dialogs.

includeRedactionTags: true,

A default value for the Include Redaction Tags checkbox in Save/Export/Email dialogs. This is only respected if the Burn Redactions checkbox is checked.

searchRedactionTags: true,

Allows the user to tag redactions created by the search and redact action. 

How to Use: Search for the term(s) to redact, then choose to redact the current match, or all matches. Once matches have been redacted, apply a tag to all matches.

How Redactions Work in VirtualViewer® HTML5

  • After redactions have been made and the file is saved, there will be a new file generated alongside the original document. For example, if the document redacted and saved was named ‘SuccessStory.docx’, a new file named ‘SuccessStory.docx.vvRedaction.ann’ would be created with information related to the redactions.
  • The ‘SuccessStory.docx.vvRedaction.ann’ file will have information related to the width and height of the current page and the redactions on that page, along with the x- and y-start coordinates for placing redaction rectangles on that page.
  • When the user exports or prints the document, VirtualViewer® HTML5 will use the ‘SuccessStory.docx.vvRedaction.ann’ file to go through the process of removing text that appears behind the chosen redaction areas and placing a visual indication (usually a black rectangle) to indicate the text has been redacted.

Final Notes

Before creating a redacted version of the document, visual confirmation is strongly recommended to ensure all expected content has been identified and marked for redaction.

Erik Christensen is a Support Engineer at Snowbound Software. He lives in Uxbridge, Massachusetts and received his BS in Computer Science from Worcester State University. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, hiking, and working on small personal projects.

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