Q:

What is a redacted document?

A:

Quick Answer

A redacted document is a piece of text released to the public with certain parts from the original version removed or censored from view. Redaction is especially relevant to government documents released to the public, as confidential information is often redacted to maintain government secrets or protect a citizen's privacy.

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Full Answer

Redaction is the modification of an original document that removes information deemed too sensitive for the document's intended audience. Redacted documents sometimes have the sensitive information deleted entirely, with no indication it was ever part of the original text. In other cases, the redacted information is covered with a black bar to indicate some text in the document is inaccessible.

As of 2012, federal rules require that the Social Security numbers of all citizens be redacted when they're part of paperwork involved in civil court proceedings. Other information, such as the names of minor children and financial account numbers, must also be redacted from these documents. When this information is included in electronic files, it must be carefully removed so none of the redacted text is accessible in any way. This can prove difficult with file formats that continuously record data even once it is deleted.

The federal government publishes redacted documents via the Freedom of Information Act. Under this act, citizens have access to a large amount of government information upon request, but very sensitive information, such as military plans or covert operations, are redacted from these documents when they're released. This means not all government information is accessible to the public, even if a document containing that information is cleared for public view.

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