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What Is Confidential Information?


Confidential information in the context of running a business is any information that the business views as confidential and wants to keep confidential. Trade secrets are a form of confidential information. Confidential information can also include customer or client information, employee details and employee information including performance reviews, financial information, business records, organisational structure, intellectual property, business strategy, procedures, processes and other know how.

For instance a law firm would regard any instructions a client has given a lawyer, as well as the client’s name and personal details as confidential information.

In some cases revealing confidential information can be harmful and a breach of privacy. Under the Privacy Act, there is now a notifiable data breach scheme, where entities must notify the affected individual/s and the Commissioner about any breaches in data that are likely to cause serious harm. An example of this is if a therapist accidentally emailed a patient’s notes to another patient, and this breach of privacy caused the patient serious emotional distress, or if a women’s refuge revealed the address of a victim to a perpetrator.

A common way of protecting confidential information internally is having a clause regarding confidential information in an employee, intern, volunteer, contractor or consultant contract. Entities dealing with other entities might use a non-disclosure agreement to protect their confidential information.

As well as contracts, physical measures should be put in place to protect confidential information in the course of a business. This includes locking confidential information in a cabinet, marking information as confidential, and having up to date software and IT professionals ensure information is stored securely on electronic systems.

Though some confidential information might be implied, it is also important to discuss with staff what information is confidential, how it could cause harm if released, how to protect the information, and what to do if confidential information is released. To prevent serious data breaches, a business should have  procedures in place.

We’ve written more about why it’s important to protect confidential information here.

Justine is a legal consultant at Sprintlaw. She has experience in civil law and human rights law with a double degree in law and media production. Justine has an interest in intellectual property and employment law.

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