How do I say all sensitive information has been obscured, what is the correct word?

For context this is data that contains encrypted passwords. While these are difficult to get meaningful info from, there is still enough information to get a password from this given enough time and effort.

What I refer to is the password field replaced with "******" No information left.


14 Answers 14


The correct word is redacted.

From dictionary.com:

Redact - to hide or remove (confidential parts of a text) before publication or distribution, or to examine (a text) for this purpose:

My example (edited): "Here is the document. We have censored classified information, replacing it with black boxes. The redacted information is only available to certain individuals."

  • 2
    Note that real redaction replaces the information with black boxes. There have been cases where clever people figured out how to see through them.
    – docwebhead
    Sep 14, 2017 at 15:34
  • 15
    There is no set way to display redactions. It could be black boxes, blank space, dashes, [redacted], etc. All that's important is that the original information is hidden or removed, somehow. Sep 14, 2017 at 15:59
  • 9
    @Hellion Yeah, but those were screw-ups. That has nothing to do with the meaning of the word.
    – Casey
    Sep 14, 2017 at 19:24
  • 2
    @CarlWitthoft - docwebhead is referring to cases where a redacted document simply had black boxes (or some other obscuring feature) placed to obscure sensitive content that is still present in the document. The document could then be electronically edited to remove or change properties of the obscuring features, and therefore display or recover the sensitive content. In security circles, redaction of an electronically distributed document is therefore considered incomplete unless the sensitive content is removed entirely/
    – Peter
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:49
  • 12
    This is the English Language stack exchange, so the most important consideration should be whether the established English meaning of the word meets the requirements. Neither flaws in specific processes of redaction nor different meanings in other languages should affect whether this answer is correct. Sep 15, 2017 at 13:01

If you want a more casual word, try scrubbed.

As in: The sensitive data was scrubbed from the page.

This works especially well when referring to electronic files or databases.

  • Do you have examples of sources (e.g., newspapers, security textbooks, etc.) of the word being used in this way? It doesn't seem idiomatic, to me, and I wouldn't expect to see it used for something as delicate as, for example, redacting names from a document. "The document was scrubbed" (i.e., thoroughly erased) seems OK to me, but scrubbing seems to be too vigorous and uncontrolled to apply metaphorically to single words. Sep 15, 2017 at 12:17
  • @DavidRicherby It's a pretty common slightly technical term. For examples see voicebase.com/pci-detection-redaction sharevault.com/resources/glossary/how-to-redact nypost.com/2016/06/20/… "Sanitized" is used similarly. The general sense of either is that some particular type of information is removed from a document each time it occurs.
    – Charles
    Sep 15, 2017 at 14:58
  • @Charles OK, though the second of those uses "scrub" to mean "totally erase a whole section of the file" which is much closer to what I was suggesting. Sep 15, 2017 at 15:02
  • @DavidRicherby In the first example, each instance of a social security number in a recording is replaced with a neutral tone. If by "whole section" you meant as fine a gradation as a three-second portion of audio or an 11-character string, then yes our understandings are precisely the same.
    – Charles
    Sep 15, 2017 at 15:05
  • @Charles I was referring to the second one, which talks about scrubbing metadata (i.e., completely erasing all metadata). The metadata is typically present as a single block at the beginning of the file. Your first example completely supports the claim made in the answer. Sep 15, 2017 at 15:08

While redact (as already answered) seems to be the best fit, I have also seen censor used in this sense.


censor VERB


Examine (a book, film, etc.) officially and suppress unacceptable parts of it.

‘the report had been censored ‘in the national interest’’

‘The Pentagon has censored sections of the book, mainly blacking out individuals' names.’

  • To my understanding "censored" for this usage is generally applied to non-government documents (such as mail from a war zone), whereas "redacted" is for official release of the unclassified parts of classified documents
    – Random832
    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:23
  • 1
    +1 As a point of note redact is used to talk about the sensitive information itself- the information was redacted, while censor talks about the work containing the information- the book was censored, the section was censored.
    – Jim
    Sep 15, 2017 at 15:16

A word that could be used for the resulting document, rather than the sensitive data that's been removed, is sanitised/sanitized

The problem with the document containing the sensitive data was that it could lead to bad things happening if it got into the wrong hands. Sanitising the document removes the things from it that might cause problems.



make clean and hygienic.
"new chemicals for sanitizing a pool"
synonyms: sterilize, disinfect, clean, cleanse, cauterize, purify, fumigate, pasteurize, decontaminate;

make (something) more palatable by removing elements that are likely to be unacceptable or controversial.
"a sanitized version of his career"
synonyms: make presentable, make acceptable, make palatable, clean up;

  • 2
    I have seen "sanitized" used to refer to a version cleaned of both offensive and sensitve information.
    – Keith
    Sep 15, 2017 at 7:37
  • Yeah - when I see the word "sanitized", I absolutely consider it far more likely that it's been cleaned of all the "****"s, "****s", and "***ing ***es", than anything else. :D
    – neminem
    Sep 15, 2017 at 22:08

Excised may be most appropriate if the data has been removed or deleted, especially from a digital document.


verb (used with object), excised, excising.

  1. to expunge, as a passage or sentence, from a text.

  2. to cut out or off, as a tumor.


Depending on the context, you might just go for anonymized, meaning that individually-identifiable bits of information have been removed. I would assume sensitive information would include names, birthdays, addresses, GPS-coordinates, and other data which would allow individual people/places/things to be picked out.

anonymize, vt. – to carry out or organize in such a way as to preserve anonymity (Collins English dictionary via dictionary.com)

If the individuals/items about which you are displaying this partially-obscured information have names, then what you have described is anonymization precisely, because it removes any chances of getting back to the names of those people/places/things, from the Latin prefix a- meaning 'no' and the word 'non' meaning 'name.'

Aside: At my place of work, we do a similar processes wherein we remove sensitive information and mark it out with phrases like "sensitive." If you're like me, might hear this activity described as "sensitizing" in an informal context. Although the term actually means 'to make (more) sensitive,' rather than 'to label as sensitive and remove information accordingly,' it gets the point across fairly concisely, since data cannot feel sensations anyhow.

Dhruv suggested a similar term in their answer.


If you've ever visited the SCP Foundation, you'll notice that they use [REDACTED] (as others have proposed) or [EXPUNGED] (to inform that the data has been purposefully eliminated as opposed to just removed).


The closest IT industry term for this that I am aware of is Data Masking. It's a technique often used in testing to produce meaningful test datasets whilst obscuring, removing or replacing data that is sensitive or personal. If you follow the link you will see that there are various techniques addressing different issues that arise.


It depends how the sensitive information has been dealt with. Has it been blacked out, replaced with "code words" or simply removed leaving no trace something was taken out of the document?

I could see any of the following being reasonable choices.

The document has been [redacted|sanitized] of all confidential information. -or- All confidential information has been [removed|replaced|cleaned] from this document.


I would like to give a perspective from information security where these operations are often discussed. There are three cases of such data transformation:

  • completely removing the information (and possibly replacing it with a string like the ****** in your question: I would use redacted (irreversible + there is no more information left)
  • removing the information but ensuring that the same random replacement string is used in the same batch of data. In practical terms it means that during the transformation the same encryption key is used for all fields, and then forgotten. If you see twice dshjsyhsdgstdsdfsdtsdg you know that it was the same word before, but you will never know which. This is called anonymization.
  • removing the information but ensuring that the same random replacement string is used always (across batches). Like in the case above this means that two same replacement words point to the same original word, but that you keep a map of "original word" → "random word". It also means that you can reverse the blurring. This is called pseudomization.

At one of the places I worked at before, they'd replace the numerals in telephone number and letters in name and addresses with a random mix of alphabets and numbers. It was this file that was then provided for testing purposes and was effectively called:


  1. To render insensitive or less sensitive.
  • 1
    Usually "desensitized" refers to the physical sense of "sensitive," in my experience.
    – Casey
    Sep 14, 2017 at 19:25
  • Yes @Casey, I certainly agree with that. However, the term desensitized data appears to be used a bit casually in databases too. Sep 14, 2017 at 19:45
  • 1
    I feel like I have seen the similar term "deidentified."
    – Casey
    Sep 14, 2017 at 19:54

It's a bit of a stretch, but after all the redactions, censoring and sanitizations mentioned in other posts, the document could be now


declassify - to remove the classification from (information, a document, etc.) that restricts access in terms of secrecy, confidentiality, etc.

  • 1
    A document with sensitive information removed could be declassified. A declassified document could also be published in full with no removal of sensitive information. And a document which has had sensitive information removed from it may never have been "classified" in the first place. Declassification is certainly not an appropriate word for the process of removing sensitive information.
    – Chris H
    Sep 15, 2017 at 9:11

How about eradicated?

From dictionary.com:




past tense: eradicated; past participle: eradicated

  • destroy completely; put an end to.

"this disease has been eradicated from the world"

synonyms: eliminate, get rid of, remove, obliterate; exterminate, destroy, annihilate, kill, wipe out; abolish, stamp out, extinguish, quash; erase, efface, excise, expunge, expel; informalzap, nuke, wave goodbye to

"a total of three monthly applications will eradicate the termites"


If that sensitive data is replaced with something else, 'tokenization' is a good word.

  • 2
    Not the best word in this context. Tokenization is reversible. Otherwise it wouldn't work as the token could NEVER be useful downstream. The example in the OP of "******" is presumably the output for every input string. So a malicious actor could never disambiguate between instances of "******".
    – MikeRoger
    Sep 15, 2017 at 14:40

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