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Technology: Both a Safeguard and a Timesaver When it Comes to Redacting

Posted 12/16/15 5:53 PM by Whitney Lawson

There is a significant nexus between data privacy and e-discovery that grows more pronounced as the volume of data being produced multiplies exponentially.  A recent law firm survey concluded that workload for attorneys has increased by 58% in the last six months and that much of this increase is driven by federal and regulatory investigations and growing data volumes in both size and scope.  Within these large data sets there is often times confidential information in the form of personal identifiable information (PII).  The definition of PII varies by jurisdiction, but is generally recognized as sensitive information that should be safeguarded from unnecessary disclosure and dissemination in the discovery process.

Examples of PII include the following:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Taxpayer ID numbers
  • Driver’s license, passport, or state ID numbers
  • Financial account numbers
  • Personal Health Information (PHI)
  • Login / password information

Due to the increased volume of data and the confidential information included within, federal (and most state) courts have mandated redactions in court filings that would customarily be seen as confidential.  Courts have imposed penalties for failing to comply with these requirements including monetary damages, award of attorney’s fees, public admonishments, and other sanctions.  A good example of when sanctions have been imposed for disclosing confidential information is in the Apple v. Samsung case out of the Northern District of California.  In this decision, Magistrate Judge Grewal sanctioned Samsung and its counsel for failing to properly protect confidential licensing information.  The court found that Samsung failed to use “sufficient safeguards” to properly protect a third party’s confidential business information. 

In light of state mandates and recent court rulings, it is critical to have a due diligence process in place to ensure that privileged and confidential information is redacted that may ultimately be produced.  For reviewers, redacting documents can be time-consuming and tedious.  If done manually, a reviewer needs to go line-by-line and document by document.  With tight deadlines to meet and volumes of documents to review, a manual redaction process is not always a realistic option anymore.

Luckily, there have been significant advancements made with automated redaction tools in the last couple of years.  Auto-redact software and tools help minimize exposure and narrow the gaps that may exist within documents.  E-discovery consultant, Craig Ball, stated in a recent Law360 article, “Law firms should use human expertise, but they should back it up with technologies that have a tendency to act as the net….Humans make mistakes reviewing legal documents more than we would like to imagine.  It’s appropriate to look at emerging technologies to defray human frailties.” Ball advises law firms to use mechanized processes to run targeted searches of key terms to make sure that all confidential information has been redacted. 

One redaction tool on the market that works with Relativity and has grown in popularity with clients is called Blackout.  With Blackout, you can easily redact across a saved search based on words, phrases, or pattern-matching regular expressions.  You have the ability to select the redaction types within Relativity and specify exactly where to redact (word, line, or full document).  You can run quality checks on Blackout’s automated redactions to approve, reject, or manually override.   In addition, you can review redactions within the Relativity document viewer without interrupting the review workflow.  Using redaction tools like Blackout can significantly reduce the time needed to redact sensitive information from documents and can serve as a safeguard to make sure that sensitive data is not disclosed. 

The following steps can help you ensure that you and your team are following the appropriate safeguards to protect confidential information:

  • Conduct targeted collections
  • Highlight sensitive information
  • Give reviewers the right tools
  • Have quality controls in place

The e-discovery process puts PII at risk, but much of that risk can be alleviated using advanced redaction technology, quality controls, and a savvy legal team. 

  a tale of trust


Whitney Lawson

About The Author

Whitney Lawson has 9 years of legal sales experience. She has worked across the country consulting with large law firms and corporations on their litigation and business development needs. She worked for LexisNexis for 8 years prior to joining Inventus. She is licensed to practice in Tennessee and clerked for the Honorable Judge Hamilton Gayden in The First Circuit Court of Tennessee.


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