Businesses have been known to generate a ton of information, starting from the early stages of its foundation. And it’s this information that it generates that gives them the edge over its competitors. This information could include the following:
- Business models
- Financial information
- Client list
- Customer data
- Employee information
- Operation Manuals
With the advancement of technology and cheaper storage spaces, businesses have already begun storing almost all of their data in the cloud. This makes it vulnerable to a potential data breach. The businesses which are in their early stages of development — are unable to allocate sufficient resources towards maintaining privacy for their information. And the businesses which are well established with enough capital to fund their IT infrastructure towards cybersecurity — and yet face data breaches which leave an impact worth millions of dollars.
Co-working spaces, remote working, social media, and the rise in cloud computing altogether have provided a breeding ground for breach of confidentiality. As per the findings published in the Dell End-User Security Survey, 72% of employees are willing to share confidential, private company information. The findings mentioned that while the intentions may not be malicious, employees are simply trying their best to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible. This shows lack of strong confidentiality policies in workplaces as most of these confidentiality breaches go unnoticed by the concerned departments in the company — until one day when they’re in front making headlines.
As humans, we only have so much control on what we talk and share about — no matter how careful one tries to be, there is always a slight chance that we might spill our business secrets. And hence, why businesses have taken the importance of privacy and confidentiality at workplaces even more seriously. It is a matter of ethical duty of any business and its employees to protect all information related to their customers, their clients, and yes the employees themselves as well.
Importance of Safekeeping Confidential Information and Accountability
From the perspective of a business, there are a plethora of reasons why confidentiality is a major concern. Besides keeping sensitive information secrets to maintain the competitive edge over its competitors, businesses are usually answerable to its different stakeholders as well.
It’s not just a question of business ethics, but confidentiality as a business priority puts emphasis on implementing strong safeguards in place to protect their data, which in turn makes them less susceptible to data breaches in the long run. And less data breaches in the long term will help maintain customer and client trust in the company, leading to minimal business loss. According to a Forbes Insights report, 46% of businesses which suffered data breaches, also had to suffer loss in terms of reputation and brand value. In order to develop an emotional connection with its customers a business will require itself to protect the Personal Identifiable Information(PII) of its customers. In its study, Ponemon institute in collaboration with Centrify published findings which showed that 33% of customers discontinued their relationship with their existing companies after the companies had faced data breaches which lead to PII being leaked.
As the discussion on data privacy and confidentiality intensifies, we have seen data privacy laws which have been put in place by several countries worldwide. The most game changing one being The General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), which has placed the control of personal data back to the customer’s hands. Companies can now face hefty fines worth millions of dollars and penalties for upto 20 years, for not complying with the GDPR.
How to Reduce the Risk of Confidentiality Breach At Workplace?
One of the most important first steps to ensuring your information stays confidential is by educating your employees on what data is confidential in your organization. Employees are usually in between the gray areas on what constitutes confidential information. This could be achieved by having regular seminars, workshops, Non-disclosure Agreement(NDA), or even an Intellectual Property(IP) Assignment Agreement — at the time of onboarding an employee, could fulfill the purpose. Having confidentiality at the workplace as a legal obligation has more effect than just an ethical obligation. Confidentiality clauses can be included within the employment contracts as well to showcase the emphasis on the ‘confidentiality’ aspect. At the end of the day, the confidentiality contract needs to be exhaustive and indicates to an employee that the breach in contract might attract hefty penalties and legal actions taken against them.
In a situation where the employment is terminated for any reason, companies need to ensure that all information and data that the employee holds should be returned to the company. This confidential information could have been held in the form of physical documents, stored in laptops provided by the company, and so on. Even though we make more use of cloud storages today, employees tend to make use of thumb drives at times or any other similar form of external storage devices for convenience. A written confirmation in this can also be signed by the employee when he/she has surrendered all company property and information back to the company.
Ensuring that your employees keep sensitive information confidential is only half the battle. Companies need to make sure that they do their part in diverting resources towards the safekeeping of all the information on their business endeavours. Which means implementing the best practices towards data security and privacy. One of the most basic ways to go about it is by having a data encryption system in place. The primary motive behind this will ensure that only authorized personnel with the encryption key may access the data. The second advantage is that this technology could be used to monitor the data flow and quickly respond to unauthorized behaviours.
In an era where cloud computing takes such importance and is prominently being used in day-to-day business activities, the scope of confidential information being leaked increases as well. Businesses need to take cognizance of this issue and invest their time and resources towards the safekeeping of the data accumulated by them. This will showcase how committed the company is towards protecting the information of not only its customers but its employees and other stakeholders as well.