How to Redact eDiscovery Files for Free
Takeaway: Use Cloud-based eDiscovery applications to redact your files for free. For example, eDiscovery software ‘GoldFynch’ offers a fully-functional redaction tool with its free 512 MB trial case. (Note: You can use this case indefinitely.) And if you’d like to upgrade to a larger case, you can do so in seconds for as little as $25 a month.
Redacting privileged information is tricky because you can’t afford to make mistakes.
eDiscovery redaction seems simple enough, but it often isn’t. The most famous example of this was when lawyers for Paul Manafort (former Trump campaign chair) didn’t properly redact pleadings they’d filed. Their redaction error revealed facts about Manafort’s connection with his former business partner – specifically, details about a meeting they had and the topics they discussed. So, how was this discovered? The media simply copy-pasted the PDF’s text into another document, and the black ‘redaction’ boxes disappeared in the transfer!
But why all the confusion? Well, it’s because traditional redaction strategies don’t work in a digital world.
Discovery used to mean working with paper files where redaction was simple. You’d just draw a line through privileged text using a black Sharpie. But this idea of blacking-out text doesn’t necessarily work with electronically stored information. For example, you could use the black highlighter tool in Word as a virtual sharpie to cover sensitive information. But that’s the mistake Manafort’s team made, and the media made them pay for it. (A cruder version of this is to change the text’s color to white – so it disappears against its white background. But you’d lose this camouflage if someone changes the text’s color back to black.)
Secrets get revealed by more than just text color, though. The biggest giveaway is a file’s metadata.
Electronic files come with something paper files don’t. Something called metadata – a file’s digital footprint. When you create a document, the application it uses will record information about it. For example, Microsoft Word will record things like when the document was created, the username of the person who created it, and where it’s being stored. For emails, metadata might include the sender’s address, when the email was sent, and the route it took to get to your inbox. The thing about metadata is that you won’t find it unless you know where to look. So, an expert could peel away superficial redactions and get at the underlying metadata you missed.
There are affordable and relatively-secure ways of redacting electronic data. But they aren’t ideal for eDiscovery.
If you want to redact a few documents, there are cost-effective ways to do it. For example, Adobe Acrobat has a built-in redaction tool for PDFs. And then there’s the option of printing out a document, redacting its text with a Sharpie, and then scanning this redacted version to make it electronic again. (The advantage here is that by printing it out, you’re stripping the document of all its original metadata.) But these kinds of fixes aren’t as convenient (or thorough) as using software that can redact files professionally. And this is especially true when you need the files for eDiscovery, where you’ll want to do more than just redact data.
Here’s where Cloud eDiscovery software like GoldFynch can help, because you’ll get professional-level redaction, for free.
The beauty of Cloud eDiscovery is that you can access the software via your web browser, without having to download anything. And the best vendors offer free trial cases that you can use indefinitely. Let’s take GoldFynch, for example. Here’s how it can help with redactions.
- Single or multi-page redactions. You’ll click-and-drag little black boxes over privileged information. And you’ll be able to auto-redact entire pages by specifying a page range.
- A redaction manager to give you an overview: You’ll be able to skim through a list of your redactions, each with a helpful summary. And the list will let you move directly from redaction to redaction without having to scroll through the pages in-between. Plus, you’ll be able to remove multiple redactions simultaneously.
- Different redaction modes. In ‘preview’ mode, redaction boxes will be translucent so you can read the underlying text. But they turn opaque (and the underlying text gets permanently removed) when you finalize a production.
- Original documents remain untouched. GoldFynch converts native files to PDFs and TIFFs before redacting them. So, you’ll have the originals (and their metadata) if needed. (Note: Avoid redacting native files when possible as this can cause problems. For example, redacting formulas in a native spreadsheet will affect numbers in other columns/pages.)
But the main advantage of using software like GoldFynch is that you also get a suite of essential eDiscovery tools.
For eDiscovery, you’ll want to do more than just redact text. And that’s the other advantage of GoldFynch. It has a suite of tools to help you review your files and produce them. For example, it has a powerful search engine to find documents, emails, keywords, dates, and more. You’ll also be able to tag **similar documents to label, group, and produce them. And you can have on-page conversations with your team via notes, comments, and annotations.
With GoldFynch, you get all this for free. But if you’d like to grow your case, you’ll be able to upgrade to an affordable paid plan.
Your trial case is free, which is perfect if you have less than 500 MB of data. And you can add and delete files freely within this 500 MB limit. But if you’re ready to grow your case, GoldFynch can grow with you.
- It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
- It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
- It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
- It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
- Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.
Want to find out more about GoldFynch?
For related posts about eDiscovery, check out the following links.
- 7 Basic eDiscovery Concepts Every Attorney Should Know
- The Secret to Choosing the Best Low-Cost eDiscovery Software for Your Small Law Firm
- eDiscovery Without Expensive Software: Is It Possible?
- Upgrading Your eDiscovery Software: How to Switch Providers Seamlessly
- How to Upload eDiscovery Files [The Easy Way]
- Here’s How eDiscovery Software Identifies File Types