To close or not to close, that is the question

We’re continuing out series on unwrapping RAPs and digging deeper into the personal affairs category, when to close item descriptions, and also changing or reviewing a RAP for records already here.

For the story so far, check out our other blog posts.

Let’s start with personal affairs…

What do we mean by personal affairs?

This is like personal information but not quite the same. Personal Affairs can be one of the hardest categories when setting RAPs. A lot of people think that a person’s name in a record means the record should be closed for a long time, but that’s not entirely true. Take into consideration that with the internet a person’s name can be found in places like the white pages and on social media.

So, what is personal affairs? This term refers to a spectrum of identifiers, such as personal relationships, health, domestic or financial obligations. Personal details may also constitute information about personal affairs but not always.

Even if your records do fit in this category, you still need to consider things like if:

  • the person in question is deceased or likely to be deceased – privacy concerns are diminished over time so if this is the case you don’t need as long a RAP as when the person is still alive and likely to be so for a long time.
  • any of the information can be found in the public domain such as published material, social media, telephone directory, open court processes – what is already out there in the public domain?

Also think about personal affairs as having different levels of sensitivity and different levels of risk to the person if the information was released – you can find more information about this on the website.

Keep in mind, when looking at RAPs for personal affairs, you still have an obligation to protect personal information under the Information Privacy Act 2009.

There might also be overriding legislation that means records that fit into this category will never be open, like adoption records. If that’s the case, you don’t need to fill out the RAP form, but you do need to tell us when you propose the records for transfer. If you’re not sure about overriding legislation, contact us and we can help you sort it out.

Unravelling the metadata issue

Lastly, we want to talk about metadata – or as some of you may know it, the record or item description. This is the information about the records like the title, the series it belongs to, when it was created, what it’s about, the format it’s in (e.g. PDF, map, photograph), even the agency that created the record.

When you transfer records to QSA, information about the records goes into the QSA catalogue for people to search, even if the records are restricted and can’t be accessed. This allows people to know that the records exist (supporting open and transparent government and all that) and request access if they feel the need (e.g. RTI request).

When setting a RAP you will need to include the status of the item or record description (aka metadata) – that is, whether it’s open or closed. Open means that people will be able to find the description in the QSA catalogue. It its closed, this means that people won’t be able to search for the record on the QSA catalogue at all.

The item or record description (metadata) does not automatically have to be closed if the records themselves are closed. The description should always be publicly available unless you have good reason to close it – this would usually only be if there is sensitive information in the description.

Even if you do restrict the item description, the information about the series that it belongs to will still be available for people to search for on the QSA Catalogue.

And if you do decide to restrict the description keep in mind that you will have to provide justification for why you want to close the description.

Reviewing a RAP

Setting a RAP isn’t one of those things you set and forget. You can review or change a RAP at any point to either shorten or lengthen the RAP. You might need to do this because legislation has changed, or the sensitivity or confidentiality requirements have changed over time, say if a project is over and done with, or some that was confidential is now public knowledge.

If you are looking to change or review a RAP, think about all the things we talked about in our previous blog post Wrapping lessons. It might also be worth thinking about it as though it’s a completely new RAP, not just a change as this could give you fresh perspective.

If you do decide to change a RAP, you will have to provide reasons as to why you want to change it.

You can find out more about changing a RAP on the website.

What role do we play?

Lastly, you may find there will be some negotiation on RAPs when you first propose records for transfer or decide to change a RAP. Or we might ask you for more information about why you’ve chosen a particular RAP. We do this to ensure we can provide as much access to the records of Queensland while still protecting any sensitive or confidential information.

More information

We hope that helps. Remember, there is we have advice on the website about all things RAPs, and don’t forget the practical guide you can refer to when setting a RAP.

And if you’re still not sure, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

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