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Implementing Data Redaction Software: Best Practices for Federal Agencies 

Redaction failures have far-reaching consequences on data privacy. To mitigate these failures, adhering to the best practices while implementing data redaction software is crucial.
by Rafey Iqbal Rahman Updated on January 16, 2024

Federal agencies handle a variety of data, including personally identifiable information (PII) and classified national security details. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the data they manage, ensuring its protection is an absolute priority. But the question remains: How can data protection be effectively ensured?

One way of doing this is by ensuring that federal agencies follow data redaction best practices and utilize competent redaction software to safeguard data privacy.

This blog covers the most effective practices for implementing data redaction software in federal agencies. This ensures the privacy of government data and strengthens overall data security. 

What is Data Redaction Software? 

Data redaction software is a type of solution designed to safeguard sensitive information by selectively obscuring certain portions of data from documents, images or videos. 

The goal of data redaction is to prevent unauthorized access to confidential or personally identifiable information (PII) while still allowing the remaining non-sensitive information to be visible or accessible.

Consequences of Redaction Failures

Using data redaction software holds significant importance within federal agencies. In the past, various US federal agencies have encountered serious issues due to their inadequate redaction of sensitive information.

For example, a federal agency did not ensure proper redaction of Edward Snowden’s email address. In another example, a federal agency failed to redact airport screening procedures, posing lethal consequences.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) once left the protected health information (PHI) and social security number (SSN) of a former CIA officer unredacted in response to a FOIA request.

The above redaction failures are only the tip of the iceberg, especially since the rise in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. More FOIA requests mean increased chances of committing redaction errors by federal agencies that receive those requests, especially when time constraints prevail.

The threats arising from redaction failures of federal agencies are two-fold. Not only do they pose a significant threat to the privacy of individuals, but they also cause detrimental harm to national security.

To effectively mitigate the aforementioned threats, federal agencies can adopt a set of best practices when implementing data redaction software. These practices are designed to provide a comprehensive and clear approach to safeguarding sensitive information.

Guidelines for Implementing Redaction Software in Federal Agencies

Best Practices for Implementing Data Redaction Software in Federal Agencies

Here are some essential guidelines to adhere to when setting up redaction software to ensure seamless redaction processes. These practices encompass both the avoidance of redaction mishaps and the execution of vital functions for efficient redaction outcomes.

Automate Redaction Process

Manually redacting sensitive portions of the data means that federal agencies face the risk of leaving sensitive information unredacted, which can lead to serious consequences. Manual redaction not only increases the likelihood of inaccuracies in the redacted content but also consumes a substantial amount of time during the process.

To overcome errors and expedite the redaction process, federal agencies need to automate the redaction process. Not only does this enhance data privacy and increases redaction accuracy, but it also reduces the burden of federal agencies met with increasing FOIA requests.

Federal agencies should look at whether the redaction software has the capability to automate the redaction process before implementing it. 

Adopt OCR Technology

Despite the shift toward electronic records, paper-based documents are still part and parcel of federal agencies. In the words of NARA Chief Records Officer Lawrence Brewer, “There is still this culture of paper in a lot of agencies.” 

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, paper-based documentation costs the federal government $38.7 billion annually.

Federal agencies are making significant efforts to get rid of paper stacks as soon as possible through the digitization of these documents. It means a considerable number of paper-based documents are electronically stored by federal agencies.

To cope with this challenge of handling increased records of paper-based documents, federal agencies should look at whether a redaction software has the capability to redact scanned, handwritten documents through OCR before implementing it.

See how VIDIZMO uses OCR to facilitate the redaction of scanned and handwritten documents stored by federal agencies.

Define Data Retention Policy

To ramp up data security and ensure government data privacy, federal agencies need to set data retention periods. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) data retention requirements, federal agencies and government contractors should retain data for three years.

It is important to note that different regulations have different retention periods. For instance, under Executive Order 11246, federal agencies should retain data for 1-2 years.

To ensure compliance with DOJ and other data retention requirements, federal agencies need to enable the automatic deletion of records after a certain period by adopting advanced redaction software.

Meet Compliance Standards

Stringent privacy laws, regulations, and compliance force federal agencies to uphold the privacy of sensitive information. Compliance such as HIPAA, FOIA and others apply to federal agencies, thereby mandating them to protect personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), business identifiable information (BII), and classified national security information.

To meet these compliances, federal agencies require the implementation of redaction software that can redact a wide variety of information across different types of media (videos, audio, images, and documents).

Ensure Data Security

Simply redacting a file is not enough for federal agencies to preserve data integrity. The platform wherein the file is kept must be highly secure and free from unauthorized access. To respond to FOIA requests, federal agencies need to transmit files to the requester.

In case of the redacted files being transmitted from an unsecured platform, federal agencies risk exposing files to eavesdropping.

Because of the above reason, federal agencies need to have a highly secure platform for storing and transmitting media, laced with industry-standard encryption methods such as AES-256 encryption and hosted on a government cloud. Moreover, a set of robust data access management features can make the platform more concrete.

Maintain Activity Logs

Data breaches are quite a common occurrence in today’s digital world. While federal agencies remain unaware, intruders constantly try to break into their systems. As a result, US federal agencies face the increasing threat of cyber espionage from hostile nations, causing harm to government data privacy and negatively impacting data security.

This means that federal agencies cannot compromise on keeping an eye on the data. To prevent unauthorized access to data and ensure data security, federal agencies need to maintain audit logs that monitor every single activity happening within the data, ranging from information regarding who accessed it from where and what activity has been performed.

Redaction software that does not compromise security should be implemented by federal agencies.

Integrate with Existing Systems

Federal agencies deal with various IT systems, each corresponding to particular use cases, for instance, a Records Management System (RMS) for storing information.

As new challenges arise, federal agencies increasingly adopt new technologies to tackle those challenges. Hence, a variety of IT systems are deployed in federal agencies. This calls for the need for data migration that enables data transfer from one system to another.

To deal with data migration challenges, federal agencies need to ensure the implementation of redaction software that enables seamless integration with their existing IT systems. 

Why is VIDIZMO Redactor the Right Choice for Federal Agencies?

The VIDIZMO Redactor tool empowers federal agencies to safeguard sensitive information and control access to it, ensuring that only authorized personnel can view the content. With an industry-leading solution for hiding PII, PHI, classified national security information, etc., VIDIZMO Redactor enables federal agencies to redact sensitive information from videos, audio recordings, images, and documents, contributing to data security and upholding government data privacy through a host of features, such as: 

  • Intelligent redaction of PII, PHI, and other sensitive information. 

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for redacting scanned documents and handwritten notes.

  • Search and redact certain words and phrases highlighting sensitive information in documents through keyword search.

  • Identify and redact sensitive data, including phone numbers, social security numbers, and credit card numbers, using search through regular expressions patterns. 

  • Ability to redact sensitive portions of audio recordings by bleeping or muting them. 

  • Redact confidential information from multiple documents in a single go. 

  • Automatically generate audit trails for redacted files.

  • Data access management features, such as role-based access control, single-sign-on (SSO) support, tokenized URLs, and a host of other features.

  • Ability to set automatic retention periods for stored files. 

  • Seamless integration with existing systems through REST API. 

Still not convinced? 

Sign up for a 7-day free trial of VIDIZMO Redactor (no credit card required) and see for yourself how VIDIZMO Redactor can help federal agencies ensure data redaction software implementation in the best possible way.   

Wrapping It Up 

Because of the rise in data breaches and cyber espionage, overall data security and government data privacy require immense attention from federal agencies for the data to stay protected. Fortunately, federal agencies can mitigate these challenges by ensuring best practices for data redaction software implementation to secure sensitive data. VIDIZMO Redactor can prove to be a reliable partner of federal agencies in ensuring data redaction best practices in the long run.  

Test out VIDIZMO Redactor for Free Today!

Posted by Rafey Iqbal Rahman

Rafey is an Associate Product Marketing Analyst at VIDIZMO and holds expertise in enterprise video content management, digital evidence management, and redaction technologies. He actively researches tech industries to keep up with the trends. For any queries, feel free to reach out to websales@vidizmo.com

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