Friday, June 23, 2006

a blackout that revealed too much

Federal prosecutors who filed a government brief in an ongoing grand jury investigation of steroid use in baseball thought they had electronically blacked-out or redacted sections considered sensitive, to avoid public release of those details. But they got caught by technology: Just by cutting and pasting the document into a word processing program, the blacked-out sections could be reversed, allowing anyone to read the "secret" parts. Ironically, the brief is part of an investigation that hopes to force two reporters to reveal confidential sources. The New York Times article offers a graphic showing the redacted area and a portion of what could be read beneath the blackout lines, as well as the full document, which you can see here. Your take-home lesson: Don't forget that reporters understand the comments and editing functions of electronic documents, and know what you're releasing -- or protecting.

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