Monday, December 5, 2011

Electronic Documents and Redaction - A Cautionary Tale

Electronic documents are great! You can ship 'em around the world in seconds, collaborate over networks, and editing is a breeze. But there's also a downside. With electronic documents, what you see is not always what you get . . . they're more than meets the eye . . . they're all that and then some . . . and probably more corny slogans.

What am I talking about? Hidden information. Electronic documents often contain information that is not visible to the average reader . . . but it's there. One example is metadata, or data about the document that is stored in the electronic file. For another example, see this story about the revealing opinion in Samsung v. Apple:
In her 65-page ruling denying Apple's request for a preliminary injunction against Samsung, [the judge] attempted to redact nearly two dozen sentences or short fragments. But because of a formatting characteristic in the prior electronic version, the redacted material can be viewed by copying text from the PDF and pasting it into another document.
Even judicial opinions aren't safe! This judicial opinion is just the latest reminder to scrub thoroughly before unleashing a digital document to the world.

HT: Euguene Volokh and his Conspiracy.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.