A framework for technology-assisted sensitivity review: using sensitivity classification to prioritise documents for review

McDonald, Graham (2019) A framework for technology-assisted sensitivity review: using sensitivity classification to prioritise documents for review. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3341257


More than a hundred countries implement freedom of information laws. In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) states that the government's documents must be made freely available, or opened, to the public. Moreover, all central UK government departments' documents that have a historic value, for example the minutes from significant meetings, must be transferred to the The National Archives (TNA) within twenty years of the document's creation. However, government documents can contain sensitive information, such as personal information or information that would likely damage the international relations of the UK if it was opened to the public. Therefore, all government documents that are to be publicly archived must be sensitivity reviewed to identify and redact the sensitive information, or close the document until the information is no longer sensitive. Historically, government documents have been stored in a structured file-plan that can reliably inform a sensitivity reviewer about the subject-matter and the likely sensitivities in the documents. However, the lack of structure in digital document collections and the volume of digital documents that are to be sensitivity reviewed mean that the traditional manual sensitivity review process is not practical for digital sensitivity review.

In this thesis, we argue that the automatic classification of documents that contain sensitive information, sensitivity classification, can be deployed to assist government departments and human reviewers to sensitivity review born-digital government documents. However, classifying sensitive information is a complex task, since sensitivity is context-dependent. For example, identifying if information is sensitive or not can require a human to judge on the likely effect of releasing the information into the public domain. Moreover, sensitivity is not necessarily topic-oriented, i.e., it is usually dependent on a combination of what is being said and about whom. Furthermore, the vocabulary and entities that are associated to particular types of sensitive information, e.g., confidential information, can vary greatly between different collections.

We propose to address sensitivity classification as a text classification task. Moreover, through a thorough empirical evaluation, we show that text classification is effective for sensitivity classification and can be improved by identifying the vocabulary, syntactic and semantic document features that are reliable indicators of sensitive or non-sensitive text. Furthermore, we propose to reduce the number of documents that have to be reviewed to learn an effective sensitivity classifier through an active learning strategy in which a sensitivity reviewer redacts any sensitive text in a document as they review it, to construct a representation of the sensitivities in a collection.

With this in mind, we propose a novel framework for technology-assisted sensitivity review that can prioritise the most appropriate documents to be reviewed at specific stages of the review process. Furthermore, our framework can provide the reviewers with useful information to assist them in making their reviewing decisions. Our framework consists of four components, namely the Document Representation, Document Prioritisation, Feedback Integration and Learned Predictions components, that can be instantiated to learn from the reviewers' feedback about the sensitivities in a collection or provide assistance to reviewers at different stages of the review. In particular, firstly, the Document Representation component encodes the document features that can be reliable indicators of the sensitivities in a collection. Secondly, the Document Prioritisation component identifies the documents that should be prioritised for review at a particular stage of the reviewing process, for example to provide the sensitivity classifier with information about the sensitivities in the collection or to focus the available reviewing resources on the documents that are the most likely to be released to the public. Thirdly, the Feedback Integration component integrates explicit feedback from a reviewer to construct a representation of the sensitivities in a collection and identify the features of a reviewer's interactions with the framework that indicate the amount of time that is required to sensitivity review a specific document. Finally, the Learned Predictions component combines the information that has been generated by the other three components and, as the final step in each iteration of the sensitivity review process, the Learned Predictions component is responsible for making accurate sensitivity classification and expected reviewing time predictions for the documents that have not yet been sensitivity reviewed.

In this thesis, we identify two realistic digital sensitivity review scenarios as user models and conduct two user studies to evaluate the effectiveness of our proposed framework for assisting digital sensitivity review. Firstly, in the limited review user model, which addresses a scenario in which there are insufficient reviewing resources available to sensitivity review all of the documents in a collection, we show that our proposed framework can increase the number of documents that can be reviewed and released to the public with the available reviewing resources. Secondly, in the exhaustive review user model, which addresses a scenario in which all of the documents in a collection will be manually sensitivity reviewed, we show that providing the reviewers with useful information about the documents in the collection that contain sensitive information can increase the reviewers' accuracy, reviewing speed and agreement.

This is the first thesis to investigate automatically classifying FOIA sensitive information to assist digital sensitivity review. The central contributions of this thesis are our proposed framework for technology-assisted sensitivity review and our sensitivity classification approaches. Our contributions are validated using a collection of government documents that are sensitivity reviewed by expert sensitivity reviewers to identify two FOIA sensitivities, namely international relations and personal information. The thesis draws insights from a thorough evaluation and analysis of our proposed framework and sensitivity classifier. Our results demonstrate that our proposed framework is a viable technology for assisting digital sensitivity review.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Technology assisted review, digital sensitivity review, sensitive information, sensitivity classification, freedom of information, open government, information retrieval, text classification, document classification.
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Supervisor's Name: Ounis, Professor Iadh and Macdonald, Doctor Craig
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Mr Graham McDonald
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-41076
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2019 11:07
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 21:45
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.41076
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/41076

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