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Save Time and Money with Native Redaction Tools for Excel Documents

Sep 16, 2019

Redaction is one of the most time-consuming tasks in eDiscovery, requiring manual review of documents to black out sensitive information. However, technology tools do exist to make it easier. These are especially helpful with Excel spreadsheets, which are difficult to work with if converted into an image file. Redacting in native Excel is preferable but does present its own challenges if the right technology is not used.

Difficulties with Excel

Excel spreadsheets can be very large and turning them into images can make them unwieldly for both the reviewer and the recipient of the document. There may be thousands of pages of rows and columns which can be hard to line up visually so they can be properly redacted and reviewed. In addition, essential data such as formulas, hidden cells, comments, etc. may be lost once the Excel document becomes an image. The best solution is to retain the document in its native Excel format, but that means using tools that allow a reviewer to only black out the sensitive information and not otherwise change the document.

Essential Redaction Features

There are several tools available to aid in redaction of Excel documents. The best ones include these features:

  • Auto-redaction functionality. This can help reviewers quickly find common or known information that must be redacted. For example, reviewers can search for and redact all data that matches a selected pattern, such as those used in Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, and personal information (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) or implement bulk redactions based on search terms. Once the information to be redacted is identified by the auto-redaction tool, the applied automated redaction will save review time. In manual redaction, the reviewer must take time to draw the box to black out the redacted information.
  • Reporting and Quality Control modules. Whether information is redacted manually or through an automated process, reviewers need to be able to easily re-check redactions for quality control purposes. The reviewer should be able to view a report of what information will be/was redacted, who redacted it and when, and permit approval of each redaction.
  • Unhide content. When reviewing Excel documents, it is important to ensure all content is visible – in other words, no hidden columns, rows, cells, comments, etc. The software should “unhide” all content during redaction or otherwise flag this content.
  • Flexible redaction. Redaction of all types of content within the Excel spreadsheet should be available including columns, rows, full cells, data within a cell, names of tabs, comments, charts, etc.
  • Multiple versions. Some document productions may require different redactions for different parties. The redaction software should enable reviewers to easily create multiple sets of redactions.

The right technology tools can significantly cut the time and effort needed to conduct redaction of Excel documents. CDS provides auto-redaction technology built into its Relativity platform as well as personal training and consulting on how best to address redactions. Learn more about CDS’ End-to-End eDiscovery Solutions or contact us for a consultation.

About the Author

Brian Zimmermann, Esq.

Brian Zimmermann, Esq.

As a Client Director, Brian Zimmermann manages workflows and provides high-level expertise to his clients. He has over 7 years of eDiscovery and legal experience and has consulted on multiple large matters for a variety of clients, including Am Law 100 firms, global financial services organizations and multi-national pharmaceutical companies. In his time with CDS, he has managed challenging eDiscovery matters including second requests, significant multi-district litigation and large class action cases. Brian is a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois.