Avoid using work emails for private purposes

2022-09-26

Email logs and email messages are released regularly from the university upon request and following legal review. Employees should therefore avoid using work emails for private correspondence.

The principle of public access to information, which is enshrined in Swedish constitutional law, gives everyone the right to access official documents that are open to the public. Because Uppsala University is a public authority, the premise is that all documents, including emails, that are received by the authority or are sent out from the authority are official documents.

In practice, this means that the university regularly receives demands to release email logs. A received request usually concerns releasing information about both incoming and outgoing emails for one or more employees.

An average of one request per month is received. There has been a certain trend for this number to have been increasing since 2013, but there are rather small differences and large random variations.

Avoid using work emails for private purposes

‘Employees whose emails are requested often become worried. Maybe not so much because their work can be exposed to review, but rather because the private information that these emails often contain may be disclosed,’ says Måns Bergkvist, Document Administrator at University Administration.

‘My advice is therefore to be careful about distinguishing between work emails and private emails. Do not use the authority’s email for private purposes.’

The entire process of releasing email logs is handled by University Administration, but when a request has been received, the people whose emails have been requested are notified that a request has been made. However, they are not permitted to know from whom or where the request was made. This means that the party requesting information has the right to be anonymous and also does not need to disclose what the information will be used for. Authorities are thereby also not permitted to attempt to determine who is asking the question or why.

‘A common reaction is that the employee is surprised and didn’t know that email logs were official documents. Or, by extension, that all of the email messages that have been received by or sent from the authority are official documents and will thereby be disclosed if they are open to the public.’

Email logs are official documents

Email logs consist primarily of sender, recipient, subject line, date and information if there are attachments. Before the email log is released, it is reviewed because there may be information in the log that is not official, but this rarely happens in practice.

‘It is important to note that the email log is always an official document and therefore will be released.’

The party who has requested the email log can then request to see selected email messages in their entirety.

‘We then make an assessment of each email message that is requested. The first question is whether it is an official document and, if so, whether it is open to the public.’

Email messages are not always official documents

Normally, email messages between employees at the university are not considered official documents, but rather the email must either have been sent to the authority or from the authority to be considered an official document.

If you discuss private matters in an email that it sent out from or in to the authority, it is also not an official document. But this can often be difficult to determine and creates a lot of work to figure out. Also, the people working on the case must read the email to determine if it is an official document or not.

Anders Berndt

Last modified: 2022-04-07