How Government Offices Can Maintain Individual Privacy in Public Records


06/13/2016

In this digital age, protecting sensitive personal information is always a top concern for businesses and consumers. And while the media often focuses on malicious external data breaches as the biggest threat, a recent AIIM study found that the companies they surveyed experienced a higher rate of data exposure due to internal staff errors and theft.

Maintain Individual Privacy in Public Records

"Overall, 28% of organizations suffered a data loss or exposure from staff negligence, making it the most likely cause of data loss," the study states. For government offices that deal heavily with public records and still rely on manual processes, employee error and negligence is even greater cause for concern.

Accidental release of personally identifiable information (PII)

Government offices around the country have been in the news because they inadvertently released personal information to the public when they failed to redact sensitive information. In fact, several such cases members of the public have brought lawsuits against government offices after their information became exposed.

How does this happen? Many times, it boils down to nothing more than human error. Many offices still rely on staff members to manually redact documents before they're made available. Depending on the number of requests the office receives, that could take minutes, hours, or even days. Older documents may also pre-date privacy laws, so they now are not compliant.

Making personal data easier to identify and remove

So what's the answer? Putting automated electronic processes into place is a good first step. Accusoft offers several APIs and toolkits that can be used to develop an end-to-end solution that rapidly finds and redacts personally identifiable information from public records. Here's an example of what an automated workflow might look like:

  • Scan

    Rapidly scan stacks of paper forms and documents to turn them into digital files. Not only does this make them easier to work with, but it saves time over manual processes.

  • Search

    Advanced searching makes it possible for you to search by word/phrase, begins/ends-with, wildcard, and more. Persistent hit highlighting lets you see multiple search terms in one document.

  • Redact

    Auto-redact sensitive information, such as addresses, social security numbers, and email addresses, quickly and easily. Redactions are burned and saved into a new PDF for sharing, leaving the original document unaltered.

  • Watermark

    For an added measure of security, apply a watermark to the document to prevent copies from being presented as originals.

Manual review as a last step

While automated processes like this can greatly reduce manual processes and speed up throughput, you won't want to eliminate human interaction altogether. You'll want to have staff designated to constantly review and improve the automated process. Having that extra "set of eyes" on finished documents will also help ensure no private data is making it through the process.

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