Confidentiality has seldom before been more challenged than it is at present, by the emergence of the internet phenomenon Wikileaks (http://wikileaks.org).
The ready availability of the content on the site, together with a popular obsession with scandal, arguably increases the dissemination of otherwise confidential or privileged material by often unconcerned members of the public. Why? Wikileaks broadens its tinfoil hat appeal to capture the attention of a wider range of information magpies. (Oh, shiny…!) Many people may access, share and retain the information because they can, and without a particular agenda that bears any resemblance to those traditionally associated with the misappropriation and misuse of confidential information. However, not all recipients of the information will be so benign.
In light of this, is is increasingly important to take reasonable steps to keep secrets secret. It is no longer sensible to rely a bland sense of self-assurance that information will not be leaked, and, if leaked, will not be spread. Some prudent steps which all organisations can take include:
- putting in place contractual arrangements that limit the use and disclosure of confidential information;
- keeping track of confidential information disclosed under those arrangements, including details of what information was disclosed, when it was disclosed, to whom it was disclosed, and for what purposes;
- regularly auditing compliance with confidentiality rules and arrangements, and investigating all suspected leaks/breaches;
- providing education as to common-sense steps that can be taken to avoid the accidental disclosure of confidential information; and
- above all, keeping secrets secret. Think before disclosing – “does the person to whom I am disclosing this information need to know all that I am disclosing to them? Could their needs be satisfied by a partial disclosure, or, indeed, no disclosure at all?