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Confidentiality of Documents Policy

Version 1.1
Status: Adopted [Policy takes effect one month after adoption of Addendum [adopted 1 February 2002]
Date: 25 May 2001


The Society recognises the principles set out in the Official Information Act as the basis for its decisions on the confidentiality of information.


The following definitions are employed for the purposes of this policy.


A document is any coherent collection of information independent of the medium or technology used to produce or represent the document. Examples of documents include reports, agendas, email, discussion lists, etc.

Confidential Document:

A document is confidential if access to that document is restricted to specific individuals, as opposed to the general public.


This policy applies to all documents produced by InternetNZ, its employees, Councillors, volunteers, members acting as its agent, and including all submissions to its discussion lists. The policy does not cover:

  • Documents which are personal to individuals. E.g. documents held on-line or off-line in the personal filing systems, mail folders, etc. of individuals, regardless of where those filing systems might be located.
  • Documents which are covered by separate agreements, e.g. personal employment contracts.
  • Documents which are explicitly protected by any law or act, e.g the Privacy Act 1993.


The Society assumes that all documents covered by this policy are public, i.e. accessible to anyone, unless the document is explicitly identified as a confidential document.

  • The confidentiality of documents must be clearly scoped as to the nature of the document, the reason for confidentiality, who is allowed access and the event (if any) that will terminate the confidentiality.

  • The confidentiality of a document and its scope must be approved by the Council.

  • Confidential documents will be represented in the public record of the society by a place holder which will clearly state:

    • The title and author of the document.
    • The reason the document is confidential.
    • Who may access the document.
    • The event, if any, which will cause the confidentiality to end.
    In rare cases it may be necessary for some or all of the above information to be withheld. In this case the placeholder must state the reason for withholding the information and give explicit reference to the motion of Council that established this extreme degree of confidentiality.
  • From time to time the Council will review the explicit policy on confidentiality of its standing documents such as agendas, minutes and mailing lists. The result of this review will be published as an addendum to this policy.

  • Occasional documents such as reports of working groups will be public unless Council specifically invokes confidentiality providing the details listed above.

Public vs. Published Information

The fact that information is not confidential to the Society does not imply a requirement on the Society to publish that information. It is sufficient to not unduly restrict access to the information.


Any member of the Society may appeal the confidentiality of a document by applying to the Executive Director giving reasons why the document should not be confidential.

The Administration Committee shall consider the appeal and report its decision to Council for ratification.


The Society is a public body and by default its workings as represented by its agendas, minutes, mailing lists and reports should be public.

It should be guided by the Official Information Act. However, the Society can not avoid the need for confidentiality in certain situations.

For example:

  • Council considers conditions of employment of the Society's employees.
  • Information made available by the Society's business entities may need to be confidential (for a period of time) for commercial reasons.
  • The Society receives privileged information from legal council.
  • External regulations, such as the rules governing submissions to select committees of parliament or the Privacy Act 1993, may bind the Society.

This policy has been developed to deal with public access to the working documents of the Society. It does not address issues that might arise as a result for legal or regulatory actions such as a court ordered discovery process.

To establish a basis of trust with its members and the general public the Society should make clear why a document is considered confidential and when or under what circumstances the confidentiality will end. A transparent way to achieve this is the use of a placeholder (electronic or paper) that represents the document in the filing structure of the Society. In this case anyone who is interested will realise that the document exists, that it is considered confidential and why, who does have access to the document and what, if anything, will cause the confidentiality to end.

In rare circumstances, such as a name suppression order made by a court, it may be necessary to withhold some or all of the information normally contained in the placeholder. This should require an explicit motion of Council and the placeholder should reference that motion.

Efficiency is an important secondary consideration. The Society should have a policy that covers its routine, periodic documents and does not interfere with the effective operation of the Society. This policy should be reviewed from time-to-time. The policy may be impacted by the individuals on Council, the technology available to support various policies, etc. This policy will allow standard processes to cover standard documents.

Occasional, ad hoc, documents must be considered individually. The expectation is that most documents will not require confidentiality. Where a document does require confidentiality the authors should be expected to specify this as part of the document or motion concerning the document.

It is important to note that this policy deals with restricting access to documents on a yes/no basis - you can or you can't. There are consequential issues such as active publication and charging for access. It is our belief that a requirement to actively publish all documents would seriously impede the efficiency of many of our committees and working groups. It is not uncommon for Councillors to use one to N email and/or web pages on personal web sites for intermediate work. This is entirely appropriate and necessary to the effective operation of a volunteer Council.

Another issue that may arise is the cost of locating and producing public information when it is requested. We currently suggest a wait-and-see attitude, however Council should be aware that a charge may be necessary.

This policy must be supported by an Addendum that specifies details with respect to mailing lists, etc. This may require considerable debate at Council and amongst members. For this reason it is suggested that four to five weeks be left for the construction of this addendum.

Last updated 10 April 2002

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