19

I'm looking for word for a person who handles records, but isn't expected to read them. I'm creating a list of positions within an organization who should have access to certain records. Alongside the people who need to actually read these records, there are other people who handle the records as a practical matter. These are the people who may file and retrieve the information, or carry the key to the filing cabinet, or IT staff who are responsible for data encryption and storage. Anyone who could read the information, but really doesn't have reason to.

It would be good if it carried a connotation of trust and responsibility. The word "fiduciary" comes to mind, as it carries implications of professional ethics. As far as I know, that word applies to finances specifically. "Custodian/custodial" is in the ballpark, but perhaps too specific. Ideally, this word would describe anyone along the chain who has access, but does not act on curiosity outside of their direct job function.

A thesaurus search for "fiduciary" gives curator, depositor, trustee, and guardian. These are all a bit too specific, though "trustee" comes close. A thesaurus search for "custodial" has the same problem. They are all words for someone whose job it is to care for some thing. I want to include people who have access to that thing incidentally as part of their job.

The word can be an adjective (applied to the position), noun (describe the position), or adverb (applied to job function).

"Joe will have (adjective) access to the files." OR "Joe will have access to the files in a (adjective) capacity."
"Joe will have access to the files as a (noun)."
"Joe can access the files (adverb)."

I'm guessing there are existing legal terms for what I'm looking for, which is why I'm reaching out on this SE. I'm not drafting a legal document, though.

Edit: Let me clarify a bit. I'm looking for a way to describe the relationship of existing positions to the information in question. This isn't a new job title or even a primary job duty. The motivation is that I'm creating a list of which job titles have access to certain information, and I'd like to mark a difference between those who are supposed to be reading the information, and those who only have access of a necessity because of the way things work.

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    +1 to custodian and guardian. How about steward? – tk421 Jun 11 at 18:42
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    In some of the cases you list, I would expect a different nuance: they could read the files but are expected not to except in particular circumstances. – GalacticCowboy Jun 12 at 13:53
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    Custodian is used in this sense in the GDPR – Andy Jun 12 at 20:23
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    ancillary ? Nobody likes it when you call their job ancillary though... – Mazura Jun 12 at 22:10
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    Do you mean "not expected to read it" or "expected not to read it"? The first means they can if they want to and it might possibly benefit them, but they don't have to do so. The second means they have the opportunity and have a duty not to use it because the information is private or does not concern them; their job is merely to look after it for others. The difference is important and could affect the answers. – Andrew Leach Jun 14 at 11:16

14 Answers 14

10

Clerk/Clerical/Clerically

If you have access to move files from place to place, you have clerical access to them. A clerk generally isn't supposed to read the documents, or discuss them, but is supposed to be able to find them when needed.

Clerical work... [involves]... filing documents.

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/clerical-skills-list-and-examples-4148486

This works a little better as an adjective than as a noun, as it’s understood performing clerical work does not make that worker a clerk.

Most employees need to do at least some clerical work, so these skills can come in handy no matter what your official job title is.

One caveat here is the adjective clerical also means “regarding a cleric”, or “regarding clergy.” But inside a business setting this is understood by context.

  • 1
    Best so far, I think. – Laurence Payne Jun 13 at 20:26
  • +1 Though this rather depends on technology. Historically, clerical duties would have included writing and reading letters on behalf of the illiterate, and of copying documents (originally reading them and writing them down again). Even a filing clerk would be expected to read enough of a document to know precisely where to file it so it could be retrieved in future. So reading documents was a key part of a clerk's job. – Henry Jun 14 at 10:48
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    This is an excellent contribution. As I see it now, I have a choice between "clerical" and "administrative." The deciding factor is probably going to be the alternate connotations that might muddy the water. (There's the IT definition of "administrator" vs. the clergy definition of "clerical.") As chance would have it, both have the potential to confuse things. – Solocutor Jun 14 at 16:03
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    Take the example of a medical records clerk. While this is a declining field today with more digital record keeping, traditionally, a medical records clerk is responsible for sorting, organizing, and filing medical records. This duty requires that the clerk handle highly confidential personal medical information, but the clerk is expected to avoid reading the content of the records, and focus solely on accurate filing. – barbecue Jun 14 at 18:20
  • This is not right at all for IT data administrators. – aaa90210 Jun 18 at 21:39
22

I would go with Administrator.

From your examples:

  • "Joe will have administrative access to the files."
  • "Joe will have access to the files in an administrative capacity."
  • "Joe will have access to the files as an administrator."
  • "Joe can access the files administratively."
  • This is a very good suggestion, and well-suited to the document I am creating. I could list off the various people, then put "(administrative)" after the titles that fall into this category. – Solocutor Jun 12 at 16:04
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    "administrator" defines an office role which matches well with the idea, but in many IT systems "administrator" or "admin" has a different meaning, referring to someone who has unlimited access to everything. – Stuart F Jun 13 at 14:03
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    I agree from an IT perspective the meaning is usually more expansive, although for this question the description was organisational positions. – Craig H Jun 13 at 14:27
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    I'm actually going to use this term "administrative" for my document. I chose "clerical" as the official answer because, in most modern contexts, the connotation of authority (from the IT world) makes "administrator" more confusing than the "relating to clergy" definition of "clerical." In the particular document I'm creating, "clerical" will confuse more than "administrative." – Solocutor Jun 14 at 17:33
21

The word archivist is a good choice.

[Merriam-Webster]
: a person who has the job of collecting and storing the materials in an archive

So:

Joe is an archivist.
Joe will have archival access to the files.

This follows from archive:

1 : a place in which public records or historical materials (such as documents) are preserved
// an archive of historical manuscripts
// a film archive
also : the material preserved —often used in plural
// reading through the archives
2 : a repository or collection especially of information


It's possible to also use secretarial (from secretary), but secretaries are often tasked with reading, if not actually writing or editing, documents, so it doesn't convey a read-only sense as strongly.

  • Thank you for the suggestion, and I can see how it follows from my title. I'm not looking for a new job title, though. I'm looking for a way of describing existing job titles in relation to certain information. So while "Joe is an archivist." is a logical sentence, I'm looking for something like "Joe, our database manager, has access to the files a an (noun)." In theory, Joe could poke around in the database and read everything, but that's not his job. Storing this particular data is not even his job. It's just that, incidentally, he has access because of the nature of his job. – Solocutor Jun 11 at 20:43
  • "Secretarial" is actually the closest suggestion yet. If I don't find another word, I may just use that. People understand that secretaries handle information, and it doesn't add on extra layers of responsibility the way words like "custodian" do. – Solocutor Jun 11 at 21:04
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    'Archive' has the connotation of non-current data. – Laurence Payne Jun 13 at 20:25
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    Do note that the word "Secretary" derives from "Secret Keeper". So there's a heavy implication that the person is trusted to not misuse confidential information. – Perkins Jun 13 at 22:15
  • The duties of a secretary generally include attending meetings, taking notes, reading and summarizing documents, and even writing them, so I don't think this works. – barbecue Jun 14 at 17:13
20

If these people have responsibility for the records in some sense, then the term stewardship comes to mind.

Joe will have stewardship over the files.

See Merriam-Webster:

stewardship noun
2 : the conducting, supervising, or managing of something especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care

  • Thank you. This is a reasonable suggestion, and probably the closest so far. I was hoping for something more general and without the connotation of added direct responsibility, just access. Something that could apply to the intern who carries the folder down the hall to a meeting or someone who clears the cache from the copy machine. He is not the the steward of the files, but he could access the contents in the course of his normal duties. – Solocutor Jun 11 at 20:50
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    There can be more than one steward, and stewardship can suggest anyone who cares for the item in question to any extent. – Robusto Jun 11 at 21:15
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    It has the advantage of suggesting duty to look after them properly - i.e. not reading if not supposed to - and ensuring they are cared for, without suggesting seniority, so even a junior file clerk or secretary would be applicable. I like "steward/stewardship" for this role. – Stilez Jun 12 at 6:11
7

Many organizations use the term position of trust to designate people who have physical access to spaces or documents as well as direct access to financial accounts via purchase cards. This category is broad, and includes people who may incidentally handle sensitive materials as part of their day-to-day records, like student interns filing human resources documents.

For example, the University System of Georgia in the US defines the term administratively in this way:

Positions of Trust are sensitive positions that involve responsibilities demanding a significant degree of public trust with significant risk for causing damage or realizing personal gain. Primary responsibilities to include but not limited to:

  • The direct interaction or care of children under the age of 18 or direct patient care

  • Security Access (e.g., public safety, IT security, personnel records, or patient records)

  • Operation, access, or control of financial resources (e.g., P-Card, handling of checks or cash, or Budget Authority in making significant financial decisions)

Each institution’s hiring office is responsible for identifying and maintaining a list of positions of trust within their organization.

With your given examples, you might say:

As an IT staffperson with security access, Joe holds a position of trust within his organization.

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    I like this term and this concept. It doesn't quite fit in the document I am creating, but it is an excellent line of thought. – Solocutor Jun 12 at 16:01
  • It's all good. I like some of the other answers too. There are a lot of expressions for this! – TaliesinMerlin Jun 12 at 16:21
4

If the position is that the person will be in physical contact with the file, but shouldn't look inside, then you could say they have de facto access.

That means that they don't necessarily have a right to access the file but they could because it's right there in front of them.

So you could say:

Jo has de facto access to the file.

  • This is a good and appropriate suggestion. I have others I'm favoring more, though. – Solocutor Jun 14 at 17:11
  • My personal fave is Tim Grant's "Clerk" – Matt E. Эллен Jun 14 at 17:23
4

As a person who has worked in operations and has had that kind of access to various kinds of data, I might say "I have operational access to that data." That could be construed to also be a person carrying a sheaf of documents--they are perfoming operations on the data, they could read it, but it's not their job to and they generally should not. A common abbreviation for operations is ops, so if it's something you need to use in conversation a lot you can shorten it to ops access while still using "operational access" in formal documents.

(This is similar to "administrative", but seems less likely to confuse people with the connotation "administrator in charge of producing/editing/etc the documents".)

An awful, clunky, too-long phrase that could help disambiguate "custodian" would be chain-of-custody access. (When I say "disambiguate 'custodian'" I mean the same kind of ambiguity as "administrator" or "steward". All of those could mean that they are supposed to do something with the data itself.). I think people are familiar enough with the idea of chain of custody that they would recognize that this means "just someone along the line that handled the data at some point". I think this concept is also in use in audit/regulatory language about data control.

Of all of this, I think "operational" really gets the separation right, it says you are just doing things like moving it around, storing, retrieving, etc. Operations.

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    I'm leaning towards other answers, but I like both of these. "Chain-of-custody access" is a useful concept. Thank you. – Solocutor Jun 14 at 17:17
  • Thank you for taking the time to express your appreciation! One thing I love about SE is that this may be exactly the answer someone else needs, so it can be useful anyway even if it isn't what you ended up needing. I liked the challenge of this one, it was interesting to me which possible misunderstandings each one might bring with it. In my case, I'm heavily steeped in tech and everyone I've ever worked with is familiar with "ops", even if they were in sales. But that is not necessarily going to be true at a law firm or whatever. Anyway, thanks! – msouth Jun 16 at 5:11
2

I suggest Keeper. My Oxford Dictionary defines the word as a person who manages or looks after something or someone.

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    Side note: the Oxford Dictionaries has become, and redirects to Lexico powered by Oxford. – Weather Vane Jun 11 at 19:38
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    @WeatherVane I just noticed that. Very strange. I'll keep referring to is as Oxford Dictionaries (because I think it is, effectively), but it feels like it's lost some of its authority simply because it no longer carries the same name. – Jason Bassford Jun 11 at 20:00
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    Thank you for this response. I was hoping for a more general term, that could apply to anyone who can read the information. – Solocutor Jun 11 at 21:00
  • @JasonBassford Don't worry, the original OED is still the definitive English dictionary, it's not going anywhere. – barbecue Jun 14 at 17:12
1

Joe is privy to the information contained on file.

Merriam-Webster

adjective

: allowed to know about (something secret). I wasn't privy to their plans.

OED

adjective

4.a Having or sharing in knowledge of (something secret or private); privately cognizant of; intimately acquainted with or accessory to.

  • (1) Thank you for identifying the source of the definition you quoted (Merriam-Webster), but we expect you to link to the source as well.  (2) While the phrase “allowed to know about” seems to fit the question, the definition that you quoted suggests that “privy to” is not a good answer.  Imagine a conversation: Cathy: “Where is Edna going to be tomorrow?” Dave: “I don’t know; I’m not privy to her plans.” Cathy: “Where is Fred going to be tomorrow?” Dave: “Since I am privy to his plans, I know that he’s going to the beach.”  … (Cont’d) – Scott Jun 12 at 19:50
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    (Cont’d) …  “privy to” doesn’t seem to embody the expectation of not actually accessing the information. – Scott Jun 12 at 19:50
  • @Scott Added URLs and a further definition. OP used 'or' rather than 'and', so I provided an adjective only. – Sorbus Jun 12 at 20:48
  • Thanks for adding the links, but I believe that your new definition proves that this is not a correct answer to this question. – Scott Jun 12 at 20:52
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    "intimately acquainted with" - "I'd like to mark a difference between those who are supposed to be reading the information, and those who only have access of a necessity" - not everyone who has access to the files are privy to them. Meaning, they have no reason to become intimately acquainted with them and probably shouldn't be reading them at all, +1 – Mazura Jun 12 at 22:04
1

Here are some suggestions that convey the sense of access, but do not imply authority, direct involvement, or examination of records being part of the job. While these could be job titles, which you said you are not looking for, note that these do not have to be treated as job titles.

facilitate

  • "Joe has facilitator access to records."
  • "Joe facilitates records access."

facilitate
fa·​cil·​i·​tate | \ fə-ˈsi-lə-ˌtāt \
facilitated; facilitating

transitive verb

: to make easier : help bring about
source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary

The people who have the keys, fetch records, file records, and so on, do not need access to the records themselves. They are facilitating access to the records by the people who do need it.

logistician

  • "Joe has logistics access to records."
  • "Joe does records logistics."

logistician
A logistician is an individual who is responsible for the supply chain within a business. Individuals who work in this capacity perform a variety of tasks that can include purchasing, inventory, delivery, transportation and warehousing.
source: www.topaccountingdegrees.org

from logistics:

logistics
lo·​gis·​tics | \ lō-ˈji-stiks , lə-\

noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction

2 : the handling of the details of an operation
source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary

coordinator

  • "Joe has coordinator access to records."
  • "Joe coordinates records."

coordinator
co·​or·​di·​na·​tor | \ kō-ˈȯr-də-ˌnā-tər \

noun

1 : one who coordinates something
especially : a person who organizes people or groups so that they work together efficiently
source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary

Notes on other words

Administrator can carry the connotation of helping to make things happen, but it generally comes with a sense of authority that doesn't match your description.

Steward is good, but you said you wanted something more general and without the connotation of added direct responsibility, just access.

Archivist is not really their job role or title.

privy to implies a trust and level of intentional access that doesn't seem to match.

guard seems far from what you're asking for.

keeper was too specific, not applying to anyone who can read the information.

de facto seems to me a miss as it isn't really an answer, as it would modify the word you're looking for but doesn't suggest what that word could be.

position of trust doesn't really capture the meaning you're calling out, similar to de facto.

1

Ex officio might work here, especially in a fairly formal document: "Access to patient data is restricted to clinical staff, though the IT has ex officio access to all storage systems.

MW defines it as "by virtue or because of an office." It often, but not always, has the added implication that the position is not meant to be heavily used. The Vice President of the United States, for example, is an ex officio member of the Senate. They can vote to break ties, but they aren't expected to be there every day.

  • Thank you. This is an excellent contribution. I'm not familiar with the connotations of the term, but I will definitely look into it. – Solocutor Jun 14 at 15:51
0

Microsoft used to have a built-in user group in Windows installations called "backup operators". These users had (going on memory here) administrative rights to all volumes attached to the systems because they had to be able to read them and change the "A" attribute, but were not intended to do normal "administrator" acts. You could call them "[adj] operators". I would avoid "operatives" because that is fit only for spies in a dime novel.

0

In the IT world, this is usually referred to as Authorization, Clearance, or Permission. (mostly Permission)

authorization (noun)

official permission for something to happen, or the act of giving someone official permission to do something:


clearance (noun) ​ official permission for something


per·mis·sion (noun) consent; authorization.

This is used to say a person CAN do something, without implying anything further. (like any responsibilities or tasks. For example, You have clearance/authorization to call the police, but that does not mean you will or that are obligated to.)

In IT, this is divided into individual subtypes (each can be granted or denied independently)

Read: They have permission to read, but not touch.

Write: They have permission to edit. (Usually requires read permission as well)

Execute: They have permission to run it (Just the permission to "hit start")

Outside of IT, it is more fuzzily used to say "They have clearance to access this space" or "They have clearance to handle these files (but not necessarily read or write in them)"

Both in and outside IT, a set of clearances will be defined somewhere as a Role, and people will be assigned zero or more roles (to more easily express/manage permissions). For example, people with the Admin role all have Read/Write access to the thing they are administrating, and a Proofreader may have Read, but not Write access to the document they are reviewing.

-1

A guard is someone who control access to some place, event, or object, but does not generally go to the place, participate in the event, or use the object.

Compared to archivist, it better describes someone with the authority and ability to control access or to otherwise protect something from attack. Compared to steward, I think guard is more suitable as a general term for lots of people, whereas steward is more appropriate for a single position who is (alone) responsible for something's safety.

  • If I heard "guard", I would think security guard. I don't think this matches what the OP is looking for. – J.R. Jun 12 at 19:58

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