There is certainly a dynamic between the new FOI (RTI in Qld, GIPA in NSW…) and privacy obligations. This isn’t new and neither is cultural inertia. Pulling the agendas and minutes from the website citing privacy concerns is not going to win you any friends in the Office of Information Commissioner.
Planning departments in Councils have been balancing privacy and transparency for many years. The issues raised in a submission against a development application should be public. The identity of the submitter should not.
As I wrestled with the transition to the Integrated Planning Act (back in the day) it was clear we were going to need to make public access digital. This meant creating a redacted rendition of each submission. Staff had access to the original and the public only saw the redaction with the identifying details blacked out. Took some effort but it worked.
This was discussed last week at the RMAA NSW Local Government Chapter seminar with the NSW Information Commissioner. As an aside, I’m much more optimistic about the GIPA program after meeting Deirdre. Once a much broader swathe of our records systems become searchable over the web, creating privacy redacted renditions will need to become routine. This will impact on already strained labour forces in local government.
The immediate answer is that we need redaction tools embedded into our ECM systems. The ability to create a public, redacted rendition with appropriate access controls with as little effort as possible will be the gold standard here.
As we go forward you’d hope this process could be largely automated with automated identification of names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other common identifiers. The redaction and creation of the public rendition could then be completely automated or at worst created in one step.