Disclosure of public documents and confidentiality
Lund University is a public authority. Like all other Swedish public authorities, the University is governed by the statutory principle of public access to official documents. This principle entails an obligation to disclose official documents on request (through a copy or by on-site access). Issues related to public access, such as the disclosure of official documents and secrecy, are normally handled at the department, unit or division in which they arise. The Legal Division at the Legal Services and Record Management division will, however, provide assistance with such matters.
How should you handle a request for access to public documents?
Official documents are public, i.e. accessible for disclosure to the general public, unless they contain information protected by a provision in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (2009:400) (opens in a new window).
The questions below are frequently posed to the Legal Division and the answers under each question are intended to guide you, the employee, when processing a request for disclosure of an official document. Click on each link to read more.
By clicking on this link you can also download a printable guide with the information below (PDF 179 kB, new window).
The starting point is that the employee who has access to the document in their day to day work, for example the employee responsible for a specific matter, is the one to assess whether or not a document is to be disclosed.
The term document refers to all forms of stored and kept information. The document is to be located, or should at least be located, at the public authority. This is why for example even a public authority-related email sent to your private email address is very often still an official document of the public authority.
An official document is a document that has been received or produced by the public authority and is stored there. A document can be considered to be stored at the public authority even if it is not physically present there.
A) Has the document been received by Lund University? Examples of received documents are emails or letters from senders outside of Lund University.
B) Was the document produced at Lund University? The document was produced at Lund University if:
- it was sent, i.e. dispatched, to someone outside of Lund University;
- it was not dispatched: then it is considered to be produced when the matter to which the document relates has been closed;
- it does not relate to a matter and is not to be dispatched: then it is considered to be produced when it has been approved or finalised in some other way (for example minutes from a meeting); or
- it concerns document registers, journals, records or similar documents: then it is considered to be produced as soon as information has been entered in the register, journal, record, et cetera (for example email log, Ladok, document register).
What applies to internal communication?
Email messages which have been sent between employees within the public authority are not considered finalised and therefore are not seen as produced by the public authority as a general rule. They are thereby not official documents. However, please be aware that internal email messages that relate to a matter become official documents once the matter has been finalised (according to point 3B above). Private email messages, i.e. those that do not concern the public authority's activities, are not considered official documents. However, bear in mind that if you mix private information and work-related information in an email, the message in its entirety may be considered to be a document produced at the university.
Is it obligatory to produce a compilation of information if requested?
As a main rule, a public authority has no obligation to produce a compilation. This means that Lund University is under no obligation to produce a new document made up of information already held by the public authority.
If the compilation can be produced by "routine-like procedures" though, i.e. a simple work effort entailing no major cost, then the public authority is required to produce the compilation. It is then to be considered an official document. According to court decisions, "a simple work effort" means work taking up to four hours approximately. Please note that this only applies to compilations. It is not possible to reject a request for an existing official document on the grounds that it would take a long time to retrieve it.
What documents can be claimed to be work material?
Talking about work material is a bit misleading as this is not a term used in the legislation. The freedom of press legislation does however refer to notes and intermediate products. There are separate rules for these types of documents.
Notes are, in the legal sense, documents created during the processing of a matter, such as an aide-mémoire for a presentation of a matter or a compilation of material. A note is an official document if it adds a substantive piece of information to the matter, if it is dispatched or if it is archived.
Intermediate products are drafts or ideas for public authority decisions or documents. These are created as preliminary stages in the production of the final document. An intermediate product is an official document if it is dispatched or archived.
Is a registered document always an official document?
No not neccessarily. Document registration (in W3D3 for example) is, apart from an instrument for control, a way of keeping order among the documents within the public authority, which also includes documents which are not yet official. Similarly, a document that has not yet been registered may still be an official document.
The person requesting the disclosure of an official document does not need to know exactly what document they are asking for. For example you might not have any interest which registration number the document has been assigned. But the request must be sufficiently specific to enable the public authority to identify the document. Even if a significant amount of work is required to retrieve a requested official document, it must be retrieved. This is so on the condition that it is possible to identify it.
If someone requests the disclosure of a document, you are not permitted to investigate who they are or what the purpose of their request is. This is so unless this is necessary in order to establish whether the document is protected by secrecy, which could be the case, for example, if the use of the information were to violate the data protection regulations.
Once you have established that a document is official, it is still not certain that it is public, i.e. to be made accessible to the general public. It may be covered by some form of secrecy. A document can only be covered by secrecy however if there is a basis for it in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act. Please note also that the main rule for official documents is that they are public.
As mentioned above, official documents are public, i.e. to be made accessible to the general public, unless their content is protected by a provision in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act. This means that the public authority cannot determine that secrecy is to apply, if there is no basis for it in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act.
A document that contains information protected by secrecy is to be disclosed in the parts that are public. If there is information in the document that is to be kept secret, you are to redact it so that the confidential information is impossible to read. It is however important that it is clear which parts of the document that have been kept secret.
The employee in possession of the documents is normally the one to review whether or not they or information in them are protected by secrecy. The person requesting the document should be informed that the request is being processed and that the document's secrecy status will be reviewed. Please contact the Legal Division if you have any questions.
8. What happens if you refuse to disclose a document or if you redact certain parts of the information due to secrecy before releasing it?
If you do not meet the request for disclosure entirely, regardless of the reason (this includes cases where the document requested for disclosure does not exist), this is considered as a rejection of the request. In such cases, the person requesting the document is to be informed that they have the right to a written decision of rejection with information as to how to appeal. Such a decision is written by the Legal Division and signed by the University Director. The decision can then be appealed to the administrative court of appeal in the first instance. If the request for disclosure of documents is rejected, partially or wholly, the request shall be recorded in an administrative system, such as W3D3, together with your answer and any potential written decision of rejection regarding the request.
A request for disclosure of a document is to be processed speedily, normally within 24 hours. If the employee who would normally have processed the disclosure is not available, someone else must handle the request.
The person requesting an official document has the right to view it free of charge at the public authority. They are allowed to then read it, copy it by hand or reproduce it in some other way. If the person however wishes to receive a copy of the document from the public authority, they have the right to obtain one against a fixed fee, see point 10.
For the release of paper copies of official documents, a fee is to be applied according to the Fees Ordinance (1992:191) which you will reach by clicking here (opens in the same window). Nine pages are free of charge and the fee for the tenth page is SEK 50. For each additional page, the fee is SEK 2. Any cost for transport or postage is to be added where applicable.
When the document is disclosed in electronic form and the work required for this exceeds 10 minutes, a fee of SEK 60 is to be charged for each subsequently started ten-minute period. This means that the cost is SEK 60 for 11-20 minutes' work and SEK 300 for one hours' work. You can read more (including about what can be included in the time calculation above) about disclosing documents in electronic form in Lund University's regulations for the disclosure of official documents in electronic form, which you can reach by clicking here (opens in the same window).
Please contact the finance officer at your department or equivalent to find out what information they need in order to issue an invoice.
You can read more about official documents, public access, confidentiality, personal data and document registration on the Records Management webpages by clicking on this link (opens in the same window)
For questions about disclosure of public documents and confidentiality, contact:
Sara Lindgren (Faculty of Medicine, Max IV, Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculties of Humanities and Theology, School of Economics and Management, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, University specialised centres and LUCE)
sara [dot] lindgren [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se,
+46 46 222 76 52
Carl Petersson (Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science, University Administration and ER)
carl [dot] petersson [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se,
+46 46 222 76 41
Hanna Stam (leave of absence)
hanna [dot] stam [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se
Sanna Håkansson (leave of absence)
sanna [dot] hakansson [at] legal [dot] lu [dot] se