Restricted pictures in the Digital Archives

Some pictures in the Digital Archives are restricted for viewing. These, and sometimes entire archives, may be covered by legislative restrictions and therefore not freely available. This page covers the reasons for this.

Published at: 2017-03-24

The Norwegian Freedom of Information, Personal Data and Public Administration Acts form the legislative framework for what may be made freely available in the Digital Archives. Section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, (https://www.sjofartsdir.no/contentassets/3c77403b6c534ae09103676353eba211/freedom-of-information-act.pdf) is particularly relevant, as it defines the types of information which may not be made freely available on the internet. This includes

  • Confidential information
  • Sensitive personal information, pursuant to section 2, paragraph 8 of the Norwegian Personal Data act
  • Date of birth, social security number or other forms of personal identification numbers
  • Material where a third-party owns the intellectual property rights, with the exception of types of material listed in section 5 of the act. For example; applications, petitions, hearing statements etc, and other material where the copyright owner has agreed to the publication of said material.

Confidential information

A large portion of information in the archives is covered by various confidentially laws, which means this information may not be made available. Those who, as part of their professional duties, come into contact with such information are legally bound by a duty of confidentiality.

Pursuant to the Norwegian Public Administration Act, section 13 (http://app.uio.no/ub/ujur/oversatte-lover/data/lov-19670210-000-eng.pdf), the following types of information are classified.

  • Information pertaining to an individual's personal affairs. Personal affairs do not include place of birth, date of birth and social security number, citizenship, civil status, profession, place of residence and employment, unless such information could expose a client relationship or other relationship which are deemed to be personal.

  • Information pertaining to technical installations and methods, as well as operational or business relationships which should be classified due to competitive secrecy considerations for the subject to which the information relates.

Under certain conditions, the need for professional confidentiality is relaxed. This relates to cases where the need for protection is no longer deemed to be necessary, and cases where both public and private interests determine that professional confidentiality should not apply. Unless otherwise stated, the need for professional confidentiality expires after 60 years. (ref: section 13.a, 13.b and 13.c of the Norwegian Public Administration Act respectively)

The regulations on professional confidentiality in section 13 of the Norwegian Public Administration Act can be superseded by other legislation.

  • The national archives director can, pursuant to regulation 11 of the Norwegian Public Administration Act (https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2006-12-15-1456/§11 Norwegian only), extend the need for professional confidentiality beyond 60 years. Such an extension is used when it is deemed necessary for the protection of individuals.

  • For adoptions and cases involving child protective services, the need for professional confidentiality expires after 100 years (https://lovdata.no/forskrift/2006-12-15-1456/§10 - Norwegian language only).

  • For information pertaining to an individual's personal affairs, the need for professional confidentiality expires after 100 years, at which point such information may be used for statistical purposes pursuant to the Norwegian Statistics Act of 1989, section 2 paragraph 7. (https://www.ssb.no/en/omssb/styringsdokumenter/lover-og-prinsipper/the-statistics-act-of-1989)

Confidentiality for state and municipal censuses

Information from state censuses are used for statistical purposes pursuant to section 2, paragraph 7 of the Norwegian Statistics Act. For state censuses, confidentiality is applicable for 100 years, which means that confidentiality requirements will cease to apply for the 1920 census on the 1st December 2020. Information from municipal censuses are not used for statistical purposes, which means that confidentiality requirements cease to apply after 60 years, pursuant to paragraph 13 of the Norwegian Public Administration Act.

Section 2-8 of the Norwegian Personal Data Act, (http://app.uio.no/ub/ujur/oversatte-lover/data/lov-20000414-031-eng.pdf) designates the following information as sensitive personal information:

  • Information pertaining to race, ethnic origin, political, philosophical or religious beliefs.
  • Information pertaining to an individual's role or status in any form of criminal proceedings
  • Information pertaining to an individual's medical history
  • Information pertaining to an individual's sexual relationships
  • Information pertaining to an individual's membership in trade unions

Legislative restrictions in regards to internet publication are rather comprehensive. In some cases, the national archives will choose to restrict pictures on ethical grounds. In cases where it is clear that a person or people can be offended, insulted or hurt by the publication of certain information, the national archives will choose to restrict access to these pictures, despite relevant legislation that allows for its publication.

In practice, it is impossible for the national archives to separate information that can not be published on the Internet, from information that can. Firstly, a single picture may be the source for information which falls under both categories, and secondly it would require excessive resources for the national archives to examine and evaluate all information in the scanned archive material.

For some information, professional confidentiality may apply, even if it is not immediately clear why, from this information alone. This is due to the fact that some information, either indirectly or in combination with other information, can be used to further deduce information which is covered by confidentiality legislation. As a consequence of this, a large portion of information which could have been freely available on the internet, will be restricted. This does not infer that the information is confidential, or that the national archives are keeping them secret. It simply means that you will not have the opportunity to search for the information online, and should contact the national archives who can perform the search for you. On the national archives website, you will find more information on what types of searches you can request.

To solve the task of which pictures must be restricted vs. which pictures should be made freely available, the national archives have employed some pragmatic approaches. For example, as the Personal Data Act does not apply to deceased individuals, sensitive personal information such as date of birth, social security or other personal identification numbers can be made freely available on the internet when all referenced individuals in the picture are most certainly deceased. In practice, it is impossible for us to determine if all referenced individuals are actually deceased, thus our approach sets a reasonable time window on the information. The method is defined thus. "Pictures where sensitive personal information, such as date of birth, social security number, and/or other personal identification numbers can occur, are restricted until all referenced individuals are assured to be older than 100 years". How this is solved in practice, will depend on individual assessments of the type of archive material and how and when said information is recorded. For example, inviduals referenced in birth records will be more than 100 years old, if the records are more a 100 years old. However tax records may only need to be more than 86 years old, if the youngest taxpayer in the archive is never less than 14 years of age.

Freely available in the Digital Archives vs freely available on location

Making information available via the internet and on location at the national archives are broadly different concepts, and there are thus no guarantees that material available on location will be available in the Digital Archives, or vice versa. Use of the reading room is first and foremost out of consideration for occurrences of confidential information which can render an archive classified, i.e not freely available. If confidential information is discovered, the entire journal, archive box or archive package must then be classified. However, in the Digital Archives it is possible for us to censor individual pictures; for example, certain pages in a ministerial book which should be freely available, but contain some confidential information. Archive objects which are not freely available in the reading room due to their physical state, can also be freely available in the Digital Archives. Legislative restrictions in regards to internet publication may also render some archive material freely available in the reading room, but restricted in the Digital Archives. One of example of this is property information in the old land registry. This archive is itself, not confidential, but can contain personal information such as birth date / social security numbers for non-deceased individuals; information which is restricted by internet publishing rules pursuant to the Norwegian Personal Data Act.