Have you (or anyone on your team) ever accidentally shared an image at work that contained sensitive or private information?
Sending visuals that include customers’ personal information, employee data, or company secrets can lead to a multitude of issues. In fact, many countries (and even individual states) have laws that govern how personally identifiable information can be shared both inside and outside your organization.
Trust us, you never want to go through all the difficulties that improperly sharing private information can lead to.
What happens when you need or want to share an image, but there are elements of it that you’d rather not (or can’t let) people see?
You could remove info within your original document by restricting permissions or versions, but beware! There are ways to get around this type of security.
Thankfully, there’s a better (and easier!) way.
Blur it out!
Blur parts of an image can help you share the information you need while protecting sensitive information that may also be present. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to do.
We’ll walk you through the different ways to protect your personal or company information below.
Take a screenshot
We love TechSmith Snagit for all screen capture and editing needs.
If the image you want to share is in an existing image or document, take a screenshot instead of sharing the original file. This flattens the info to a static image file, completely stripping out all underlying data and removing any chance that something could be uncovered later.
If you’re trying to capture information from a software application, a screenshot is still your best bet.
With Snagit, you can capture as much or as little of your screen as you want to. Additionally, with panoramic capture, no matter how long a document is, Snagit can grab it all.
Be mindful, though, that the larger the image you capture, the larger the image file will be. Unless you truly need to capture the entire document, it may make more sense to capture only the parts you need to share.
Crop, redact, or blur?
Now that you have your screenshot, how do you block out information you don’t want people to see?
You could redact it with a black rectangle, but that’s not very sleek. Plus, it pulls attention away from your actual content.
You could visually cut or crop out the parts you don’t want, but that can look choppy and make it hard for people to understand the context of what you’re trying to share.
For some categories of information, redaction is your safest choice – black boxes on top of a screenshot completely obliterate what’s underneath.
Blur is preferred
Blurring is a great option if you’re trying to maintain the aesthetic of an image.
It de-emphasizes the private or unnecessary information, yet doesn’t completely obscure it — people can tell that something was there and can see how it fits into the larger picture.
You can increase the level of blur, based on who you’ll be sharing it with. Better to blur too much than not enough. Start with 8% blur intensity for mild fuzziness, 25% for a stronger mask, or go with 50% or more to make sure it’s indistinguishable to the human eye.
It’s always best to blur.
5 reasons to blur images at work
1. Before you hit ‘send’…
Blurring comes in handy for sending documents, memos, purchase orders, or any information internally that contains client personal info you’d rather keep private.
Mailing addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, and similar information can all be easily hidden with a quick blur, leaving the rest of the document intact.
2. Spreadsheets, reports, and other sensitive numbers
Sometimes you need to share financial trends, but don’t want the actual numbers being visible to everyone. Blur out the sensitive parts, and leave the rest so you can show important data without giving away the details.
3. Login details, domain names, and more
You want to show coworkers (or clients) how to log into a system, but you don’t want them to see your username or password length. Blurring lets you share a screenshot that shows them all they need to know, without giving away info about your own account.
Use blurring when creating screenshots for IT help desk, manuals, common workflows, how-to docs, and more.
4. Extra things that get in the way
When making training tutorials, sometimes there are a lot of elements on the screen. You want to focus viewers’ attention on a particular button or action so they know what to click on.
You can easily blur out the nonessential elements so they can focus on the workflow they need for that task, and so you can better convey your message.
Or, instead of blur, you can always use Snagit’s Simplify feature.
5. Client information and other protected data
When it comes to certain types of data, it’s best to take a cautious approach and hide anything that must be protected, particularly in healthcare (protected health information, PHI), human resources (employee confidentiality), or any type of personal identifying information (PII).
Some protocol requires old-school redaction with black rectangles. However, oftentimes blur will do the trick (especially if you use 50%+ blur intensity) when you’re sharing information internally with colleagues, for training, or with those who already have access but who don’t necessarily need to see all the data.
Bonus! Faces, objects, and visual noise
Blurring works with photos, too! Hide anything you don’t want people to see (or would rather they don’t see), such as background faces, house numbers, or anything you want to obscure from your image.
Start blurring your images today
There are endless ways that blurring makes communication easier.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Frequently asked questions
Absolutely! With Snagit, you can click and drag the blur feature over the area you’d like to hide without impacting the rest of the image.
As long as you export your final image as a PNG or other type of flat image that has no editing capability, your information will be safe.