The Archives discovered that a limited set of records were visible, and as a result it revoked access to its collection search tool.
Archives New Zealand has indefinitely closed access to its widely used online search engine for its collections after restricted records containing private information became publicly available.
Now, the only way people can access archival collections is to go to the archives’ physical offices and request physical copies of the documents.
On Friday, the state’s records agency found that the short headers of the records, which contain private information, were publicly available. The complete records were not available digitally and have never been made available to the public.
“We take the confidentiality of the materials we store very seriously,” said Chief Archivist Anahera Morehu.
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Officials were now checking to see if the closed records were available to the public.
“This could potentially have security and privacy issues, so we needed to make the collections unavailable to the public,” Morehu said.
According to Moregu, the incident was the latest in a series of problems the national archive has had with its records management system since it was launched in February.
Incidents in recent months have included records or information related to records “appearing in unexpected places,” she said, and other “performance issues” with the collection search tool.
These included the tool loading slowly or incompletely, some search functions not working, and difficulty navigating through search results.
Other issues included an unreliable process for users to order and pay for a record to be digitized, and some users had difficulty creating accounts to search collections or log into RealMe.
The archives could not provide a time frame for when the online search tool would be restored, but said officials are working on the matter urgently.
The outage affects all users of the search tool, including those who may use it for work or research.
On Tuesday evening, a group of senior staff from the Department of Home Affairs and Archives met with representatives of the collections search company Axiell to help resolve the issue.
Morehu apologized for the effect the closure of the search would have on people.
“This frustration is also shared by Archives NZ and our archivists who work with the system every day and face the same challenges.”
The archives held the search engine until it was assured that security and privacy measures had been resolved.
He investigated whether it was possible to revert to his previous Archway search tool, but said it was not possible because the technology was no longer supported, supported or improved upon.
“This was a serious risk to the security of our data and prompted us to move to a new system,” Morehu said.
The archive signed a contract with the provider Axiell, which provided for the support and continuous improvement of the collection search system.
“We expect our provider to work with us to ensure we have an archival information management system that will facilitate access to the collections for our staff and users. This is obviously not the case at the moment,” Moregu said.