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How Redaction works for the Public Record (Recorders, Registers, Clerks, etc…)
At the state and local level, our elected officials are responsible to manage and make available Public Records. While doing this, they must be aware that some of these Public Records contain Private Information. Think about the volume of land related records your local county office deals with. Every transaction where a piece of land or property changes ownership, a voluminous collection of documentation follows. Title information, mortgage/loan information, historical information such as liens, court information and related documents all have some influence as to the disposition of any piece land or property.
Found within these numerous documents can be found varying types and amounts of Personal Identifying Information (PII) such as social security numbers, dates of birth, credit and bank card numbers, driver’s license numbers and etc. Now, add the additional complexity that web access to these documents is now de facto. The voting public and private industry simply demand electronic information exchange.
More and more county and state offices are adopting electronic technology to manage their core business operations. Because of this, the inter/intra office, departmental and division communication is becoming more and more electronic based. Document sharing is no longer sending volumes of paper documents, but allowing access via an on-line computer application.
So how does a state/local official comply with current statutes and laws to provide open access to Public Records without exposing individual’s Personal Identifying Information (PII), especially via the web? And the question as to why they would not want to expose the PII should be rhetorical. Considering the current environment of identity theft we all exist within each day, information security is of paramount concern.
The answer is called Redaction:
Redaction is the process of covering over or blacking out specific information within a document. For hardcopy documents, this can be overwhelming task. Each time a person comes into a government office to research and gather information and makes copies of Public Information for personal or private use, the office has the risk that someone will walk out with someone else’s PII.
Or, when county offices receive record requests via snail mail, many offices today still deliver the information via hardcopy documents.
Example of legacy document hardcopy transaction:
- Original requested documents are located and photocopied;
- PII is redacted from photocopy using a marker of some type;
- The redacted copy is photocopied to eliminate the opportunity of bleed-through of original information;
- Original copy is re-filed, requested copy is mailed, and original photocopy is destroyed.
For day-forward electronic transactions:
Day-Forward Processing: Using an automated redaction software product
Documents can enter a local government office in a variety of ways;
- Public Access software (E-Recording) (Simplifile, Ingeo, etc…)
- Title Company
- Gov-to-Gov interchange
- Web Portal
As each new document is received in an office:
- The document is scanned or received electronically;
- Workflow driven process pushes image through an automated redaction product;
- Image comes up for manual human review and verification;
- Redacted image is electronically copied, creating a “public, redacted” version;
- The image follows normal workflow process until final document is verified and made available for view;
The original, non-redacted image remains in-tact while the redacted version is made available for public access.
If you have legacy/historical documents that need to be redacted, you should check with your automated redaction software vendor to see what they suggest. If your legacy documents are still on paper or film, you will need to go through the exercise of digitizing these documents. See my posts on preparing for conversion projects for assistance.
If your documents are already digitized, then your vendor may be able to facilitate your office doing verification of the images they process through their automated redaction software. Your CAPEX would be minimized by doing the verification work in-house.
I would not suggest trying to process all of your legacy documents through an automated redaction software product in-house. Processing millions of images through redaction software is very processor heavy – your office would probably need to purchase expensive servers if you chose to do the entire project in-house.