Disclosure of public documents and confidentiality
News! A new law on corporate secrecy
On 1 July 2018, a new law on corporate secrecy will take effect. The law replaces an existing corporate secrecy protection law and is based on a new EU directive. In general, the new law is in line with the principles of the previous one, but with certain changes and adjustments.
In contract to the provisions of the previous law, the new law stipulates that research institutions, including state universities and university colleges, may also be considered a holder of corporate secrets, if hte other conditions for the law are fulfilled. In practice, however, the scope of the law is limited when it comes to public authorities conducting research activities, particularly with regard to the extent to which the secrecy applies to research results etc. in accordance with the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act. Information that is considered official, and also public, cannot be protected as a corporate secret. This means that the scope for protecting information at higher education institutions will not be extended by the new law.
In other respects, the new law entails, among other things, that more forms of infringement are to be impermissible and possibly prohibited, that those who reveal corporate secrets are forced to pay damages in more cases, that corporate secrecy protection in court is reinforced, and that the penalties for corporate espionage are increased. Furthermore, the law clarifies that the knowledge and skills acquired by an employee during normal professional practice, as well as information about something that constitutes a crime or other serious wrongdoing, are not corporate secrets.
News! Increased protection of government employees' private contact details
The provision in Chapter 39, Section 3 of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (2009:400) provides increased confidentiality protection for all government employees regarding information about their home addresses, private phone numbers and other similar data, details about their loved ones, and photographs for access cards or for use in internal presentations of staff. Such information is to be kept secret unless it is clear that the disclosure would not be detrimental to the individual.
What is an official document?
A document is official if it is located at/stored with a public authority, and is to be considered as received or drawn up by that authority. ‘Document’ refers to not only traditional paper documents, but also photographs, databases, maps, drawings, audio and video recordings etc. may constitute public documents.
Are all official documents freely accessible?
Official documents are generally public. In some specific cases, information in official documents is to be kept secret, but this requires statutory support in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (SFS 2009: 400) (in Swedish) on the Swedish Parliament's website. Contact the Legal Division for more information about the application of secrecy provisions in the Act.
Are registered documents always public?
No, document registration is not only an instrument for transparency, it is also a way to keep track of documents within the public authority, including internal documents which are not yet public. In a similar way a document which is yet to be registered may be public. The determining factor of whether or not a document is public is if it was received or drawn up by and located at/stored with the public authority.
What is not an official document?
Documents sent internally within the authority, such as emails, are generally regarded as mere work-related documents, and these will not become public until the matter to which they belong has been closed.
Another type of document that is frequently asked about is notes – memos or other written or recorded items that were only produced for the sake of presenting or preparing a case, and which provide no factual value to the matter other than what has already been documented. These notes will be official documents only if they are expedited or are archived.
The same rules also applies to drafts and outlines of finalized documents. They will become official documents only if they are expedited or are archived.
What do I do if someone requests an official document?
Requests for disclosure of official documents should be handled promptly. Normally, the officer who is in possession of the document is to decide whether it is official, and whether it should be disclosed. A decision to deny a request for disclosure of official documents is made by the University Director following an assessment by the Legal Division. The person requesting to obtain the official document usually has the right to remain anonymous and does not have to specify what the information will be used for (unless the request makes a secrecy assessment necessary – consult the Legal Division at the Legal and Record Management division).
What fee is to be charged when disclosing official documents?
When disclosing paper copies of official documents, a fee shall be charged in accordance with Swedish legislation on fees (Avgiftsförordningen). Nine pages are free. The fee for the tenth page is SEK 50. For any additional pages, the fee is SEK 2 per page. If it involves shipment that weighs more than 20 grams, a postage fee will be charged, as well as a collect on delivery letter fee, when relevant.
When disclosure is made electronically and the work effort for this exceeds 10 minutes, a fee of SEK 60 will be charged for every additional ten-minute period. This means that the cost amounts to SEK 60 for 11-20 minutes of work, and the cost of one hour's work amounts to SEK 300. Read more about electronic disclosure in Lund University's regulations regarding disclosure of official documents in electronic form (PDF 78 kB, new window).
For questions about disclosure of public documents and confidentiality, contact:
sanna [dot] hakansson [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se
+46 46 222 08 10
hanna [dot] stam [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se
+46 46 222 71 41
Henrik Wiebe (on leave)
henrik [dot] wiebe [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se
+46 46 222 08 90