Document Revocation – How to Revoke Document Usage?

(Last Updated On: April 2, 2020)

Some might wonder why they would ever need to revoke document access. Well, there are a couple of reasons. For example, you might have circulated the wrong document.

How to Revoke Document Usage?

How to Revoke Document Usage

Alternatively, you might have circulated the right document but to the wrong people. It has also been proven time and again that information has a natural expiry date beyond which it is no longer relevant.

So, what is true today may not remain true in the future. As a result, outdated documents may end up being misleading and revoking such documents after some time would be most appropriate.

The use of encryption and automatic deletion of files on the user’s computer were thought to be viable solutions, but there are some ways to get around these. People can recover the data, make backups and restore it at a later date, or copy it while they still have access. And, if the original is then deleted thereafter, the user can still fall back on the copy.

So, what you really need are Digital Rights Management (DRM) controls. DRM can control who has access and when they have access. Most of the ways in which DRM can be used to revoke access require an online license check with a server each time a document is opened.

So, when access has been allowed permanently offline there is virtually nothing you can do to revoke it.  You can however set an expiry date on the document and this will automatically be enforced regardless of whether an online check can be made or not.

Below are some of the DRM controls you can use to revoke access online.

1.    Set up a Document Expiry Date

This is a favorite among a lot of people and presents several ways of revoking access:

  • Set up an expiry date and when that date is reached the document will expire and no longer be viewable.
  • State the number of days a document can be viewed, after it is initially opened.
  • Set the number of prints allowed for a document and once those prints have occurred the document can no longer be accessed.
  • State the total number of views allowed for a document before it can no longer be used.
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As soon as the chosen expiry criteria are met, document revocation will happen automatically. The expiry criteria can always be changed to allow longer access or even to revoke document access immediately but this will require an online connection to a licensing server.

While it is possible to set the expiry date for a document at never (so it never expires), we would advise against doing so. Once a document has been given that designation, there is nothing that can be done to change it. So, it is like giving someone unfettered lifetime access to a document.  This however may be relevant if someone has purchased a product such as an ebook.

2.    Suspend or Delete a Document

Once this is done, access to the particular document will be revoked for all. This is particularly useful when the wrong document was circulated.  You might want to suspend a document if you do not want it viewed before a certain date or if some details need clarifying before it can be viewed.  Suspended documents can therefore be distributed to users and you can then control when they can start viewing them.

3.    Revoke Access to a User Account

The administrators of the DRM tools can choose one of two ways to put this into effect. First, they can suspend the user account. Once a user’s account has been suspended, their access to all documents will effectively be revoked.

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Secondly, the administrator can set the user account to expire after some time. This works more or less like setting up a document expiry time as the user will have access to documents till the expiry criteria for his or her account is met.

Thereafter, access for all documents will be revoked. The expiry date can be changed to allow longer or shorter periods of access. Also, a user account can be reinstated (instead of being created anew) after it has been suspended.

4. Revoke a user’s access to a single or multiple documents

You can also revoke a single user’s access to a document(s) or change expiry settings on a per user per document basis.  It may be for example that you want to give different users more or less time to view specific documents.

These tools to revoke access may prove invaluable when dealing with sensitive documents. At the very least, all companies should have them ready should the need ever arise.  So, how do you revoke document usage?

How to Revoke Document Usage?

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