X-Ray Bad Redaction Detector

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X-Ray is a fast and robust tool to identify bad redactions in PDF files.

An ongoing problem we encounter as we gather court data is that people routinely fail to properly redact documents. Instead of doing it the right way, people draw a black rectangle or a black highlight on top of black text.

When this happens it is trivial to reveal the badly redacted text under the rectangle. To do so, you simply select the text that remains in the document and copy/paste it somewhere else.

A gif of a bad redaction rectangle being selected by the mouse
It looks like redacted text, but it's very easy to reveal.

In light of this problem, X-Ray serves two goals:

  1. We have run X-Ray across millions of PDFs in our system and are using the results of that research to educate the public about the prevalence of this problem.

  2. By releasing this tool as a well-maintained open source utility, we are making it as easy as possible for law firms, courts, and others to get ahead of this problem, before yet another badly-redacted document is made public.

At present, X-Ray supports only the most basic (and most common) type of bad redaction, rectangles on top of text. There are a variety of other types of bad redaction though, and we hope to add additional features as this tool gains more usage.

We have built X-Ray to be fast — so it can process millions of PDFs — and we have used a full test suite to make sure it will only get better over time.

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