Confidentiality

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Confidentiality

The problem of protecting the state secret, personal information and other types of secrets is actively discussed in the whole world. Mechanisms of protection of confidential information have to be accurately developed for all cases, including business, medicine and psychology, Internet and law.

In a modern business the most valuable product is information. It is necessary to protect information the company owns in order to have a successful business. Confidential information is the data which is in possession, usage or availability of certain private or legal entities. It can be spread only at their will and according to the conditions provided by them.

People, who own confidential information, have to define a mode of access to it. It should be included to the confidential category, and a system (ways) of its protection should be installed. In case of violation of commercial secret there are following types of responsibility: criminal, civil, administrative and disciplinary.

The most important principles of the consultant work are confidentiality, nondisclosure or silence duty of the consultant in relation to other people. The duty of each consultant is to use the information on the client only in the professional purposes. The consultant has no right to spread information on the client with other intentions. The consultant has to provide privacy and confidentiality so he/she has to acquaint the client with the circumstances under which the professional secret is not observed. Confidentiality cannot be made an absolute principle. Therefore, it is often necessary to mention its borders.

The area of distribution of personal information in the Internet can appear much wider than people think. Many sites, if not the majority, use special technologies for tracking their visitors. , confidentiality is an important element in the open information space of the Internet. Neglect of the human right to confidentiality, his/her rights of control of the personal information distribution leads to the loss of user trust, control strengthening. As a result, it leads to reduction of intensity and volume of information exchange.

Therefore, it is important to maintain this difficult balance between confidentiality and openness, convenience of using and leakage of private information.

Legal Ethics – Confidentiality

In the era of information the modern society demands a legal regulation of the relations connected with information. The emergence of new information technologies influences on both material and procedural law. In a modern society relations connected with confidential information are of special importance. The problem of protecting the state secret, personal information and other types of secrets is actively discussed in the whole world. Ways of protection of confidential information have to be accurately developed for all cases, including business, medicine and psychology, Internet and law.

Confidentiality in Business

In a modern business the most valuable product is information. It is necessary to protect information the company owns in order to have a successful business. The information protection also is needed to ensure economic safety of the company, to avoid bankruptcy, to protect yourself and the company from unfair competition and commercial espionage and to prevent raider attacks. Each businessman, who has an advantage before the competitors in the market, tries to keep the information in secret by all possible means. Therefore, it is necessary to define what confidential information means and how it could be protected.

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Confidential information is the data which is in possession, usage or availability of certain private or legal entities. It can be spread only at their will and according to the conditions provided by them.

Legislation refers to the secret type of information. Its disclosure causes damage to the person, society or the state. So, it should be prosecuted by the law. The commercial secret belongs to the secret information. Though it is not specified in the standards of the law, the legislators give the sense of the secret information in the concept “other secret information provided by the law” (Jabine, 1993).

Commercial secret is the information which is confidential or unknown.  As a whole or in a certain form, it is the type of information which is not readily available for people. In this regard it has a commercial value. Commercial secret is a subject of preservation of its privacy. These existing circumstances are accepted by the person who lawfully supervises this information. The commercial secret can be the data of technical, organizational, commercial, industrial or other character, except that which, according to the law, cannot be referred to as the commercial secret.

The commercial secret is the data, connected with production, technology, management, financial and other activities of the transactor. Their disclosure can cause damage to the interests of the transactor. In compliance with the law, the transactor defines the structure and volume of the data which is a commercial secret, and the way of its protection.

The concept of commercial secret is developed by legislators of many countries. The definition of the commercial secret is the following: “information is a commercial or an office secret in the case when information has a potential or real commercial value, thanks to its obscurity to the third parties, it provides no free legal access to it and the owner of the information takes steps to protect its confidentiality” (McGuckin, and Nguyen, 1990).

The concepts of the commercial secret, preserved in the legislation, have the following features: 1) such information has a commercial value; 2) it is confidential, that is unknown to the third parties; 3) the owner of such information recognized it as the information with a limited access; 4) the owner of such information protects its confidentiality by the application of measures of protection. They are provided by the legislation or do not contradict it (McGuckin, and Nguyen, 1990).

People, who own confidential information, have to define a mode of access to it. It should be included to the confidential category, and a system (ways) of its protection should be installed.

For successful activity of the company, first of all, it is necessary to protect information which the company owns.  Therefore, in cases of negative consequences caused by the loss of such information, the company has the right to compensation of material and moral damage. Compensation of the caused damage is possible only as a judicial review. However, it is necessary for the company to strengthen the right to the commercial secret, definition of its structure, volume and protection. It will help to receive a positive result for the company in court. The right is kept in the constituent documents, the collective agreement, employment policies and procedures, as well as in the provision on the commercial secret and “The list of the data which are a commercial secret of the company” (Doyle, 2002).

The data, classified as secret information, cannot belong to the commercial secret.

As a rule, the following data belongs to the commercial secret: production, management, plans, meetings, finance, conditions of the market, partners, contracts, prices, scintific and technical achievements, own safety of the company.

The list of the data, referring to the commercial secret, should be developed by the commission. They also need to be provided to the head of the company for ratification. In turn, if the head of the company agrees with this list, he/she approves it with his/her order.

It is also necessary to establish the list of the people, who have an access to certain information. An order of access to information (receiving, use, distribution, storage) to the people concerned and the system of its protection are also necessary.

Besides, it is necessary to define the rights, duties and responsibilities. It should be done in order to ensure safety of information with a limited access and to establish relationships and communications between the emplyees and the company, concerning distribution of information. Nondisclosure of such data is included into the labor duties of employees.

It is necessary to clarify the company’s communication with the representatives of law enforcement agencies, control and supervisory executive authorities. They have an access to the commercial secret on a legislative basis, carrying out their office responsibilities and functions. The company has the right not to provide data to the law enforcement agencies and other state bodies if these requirements go beyond their powers, connected with the access to the commercial secret.

Special attention needs to be paid to the organization of the office-work documents, which contain information with a limited access. In this case it is expedient to consider all the stages of the handling these documents, their preparation, accounting, copying, sending, storage, periodic monitoring of their existence and destruction. Beside the originals of the documents, it is also necessary to handle carefully with both draft copies and copies of the documents, which contain information with a limited access. The employee during his/her absence should not leave any documents on the workplace. All the information has to be safely stored in a safe, a metal case or in the drawer of the table.

In case of violation of commercial secret there are following types of responsibility: criminal, civil, administrative and disciplinary.

The experience of practical application of norms on protection of a commercial secret is very insignificant. On the other hand, the general share of references to courts on protection of the violated rights of the owners of the commercial secret is insignificant. Practically, there is no law on the disputes connected with commercial secrets. According to the available law, the problem of commercial secret protection arises only in disputes on the reclamation of information on the society activity by shareholders.

Probably, it is caused by the fact that each of possible ways provides considerable difficulties for the owner of the commercial secret. This happens mainly through the existence of gaps in the legislation, in particular, the lack of the legislative regulation of the commercial secret protection within the labor relations.

Thus, the reference of the data to the commercial secret and a reasonable mode of information access of the company is a guarantee of stability and success of the company.

Confidentiality in Psychology

The most important principles of the consultant work are confidentiality, nondisclosure or silence duty of the consultant in relation to other people. Not following to this principle conducts to a full breakdown of trust of the patient/client to the consultant and undermines his/her work credibility. There are two levels of confidentiality. The first level belongs to a limit of professional use of the data on the client. The duty of each consultant is to use the information on the client only in the professional purposes. The consultant has no right to spread information on the client with other intentions. It also concerns the fact that somebody takes a psychocorrection course.

It is extremely important and, at the same time, the most difficult to achieve this principle by the consultant even at the level of unconsciousness.

For example, if the client and the consultant absolutely accidentally meet in other than working environment, the consultant, has no right even to greet while the client him/herself will not consider it necessary to let know about their acquaintance.

The data on the clients (records of the consultant, individual cards of the clients) has to be stored in inaccessible places.

The second level of confidentiality refers to conditions when the information, received in the course of consultation, can be used. The client has the right to hope that such information will serve only for his/her benefit. This also presents an inevitable dilemma, when the process requires sharing the data, received from the client, with his/her parents, teachers, a spouse. The consultant is obliged to inform the client of his/her intentions. If the client does not object, “the confidentiality question turns from the ethical one into especially professional” (Rosner, 1980).

The consultant has to provide privacy and confidentiality so he/she has to acquaint the client with the circumstances under which the professional secret is not observed. Confidentiality cannot be made an absolute principle. Therefore, it is often necessary to mention its borders.

There are some basic rules for establishment of these borders.

It is obligatory to observe confidentiality not absolutely, but relatively as there are certain conditions, capable to change an obligation.

Confidentiality depends on the character of the data, presented by the client, nevertheless, “the trust of the client connects the consultant incomparably more strictly than the privacy of the events” about which the client reports (Veatch, 1989).

The materials of advisory meetings, which cannot harm the interests of the client, do not fall under the confidentiality rules.

The materials of advisory meetings, necessary for effective work of the consultant, also do not fall under the confidentiality rules (for example, sending materials of consultation to the expert is possible after arrangement with the client).

Confidentiality is always based on the right of the client to the reputation and secret preservation. The consultant is obliged to respect the rights of clients and in certain cases is even forced to treat illegally (for example, not to provide information on the client to the law enforcement agencies if it does not violate the rights of other people).

Confidentiality is limited to the right of the consultant to preserve of his/her own advantage and safety of the personality.

Confidentiality is limited to the rights of the third parties and the public. The most often circumstances, under which the rules of confidentiality in consultation can be limited, are as follows: the increased risk for life of the client or other people; criminal acts (violence, depravity, an incest, etc.), committed over minors; need of hospitalization of the client; participation of the client and other people in drug trafficking and other criminal acts, etc.

Private informatiion is the information which concerns to the person and which is used for his/her identification, for example the person’s name, phone number, e-mail address, date of birth, address, number of social insurance or other national identifier, account number in a bank, any other information, which identifies or can identify a person and refers to him/her.

Some types of private information are confidential information. On the principles of confidentiality when the phrase “private information” is used, the confidential information is included if another is not specified within the concept (Appelbaum, 1984).

Having found out during the consultation that the client poses a serious threat for someone, the consultant is obliged to take measures to protect the potential victim (or victims) and to inform on danger his/her (them), parents, relatives, law enforcement agencies etc. The consultant also has to report to the client about his/her intentions.

If the dilemma exists, what the consultant should prefer: to observe confidentiality, according to the ethics code, or to follow the rules of law. The practice shows that the preference should be given to the last option.

Confidentiality of Information on the Internet

Approximately ten years ago, online payment was considered a risky business and had to be carried out very carefully. Use of real names in social communication in the network was impossible, and anonymity of activity on the Internet was considered as the almost absolute.

Social networks changed the situation considerably. On social networks people want to communicate not with strangers or virtual characters, but with people whom they know or they want to get acquainted with. It assumes that their image in the network is rather truthful.

People exchange quite truthful information on the age, interests, location, trips, and current cares with their friends, relatives and often with the whole network community.

At the first sight, publication of personal information on the Internet is quite harmless. For example, the information about hobbies, own photos or the number of school, which one has finished, does not constitute a danger. However, the information posted on social networks can be used for harmful purposes, for example, to detect empty apartments with the aim of robbery.

Another aspect is that the area of distribution of personal information can appear much wider than people think. It is not often limited to a narrow circle of friends and relatives, and, moreover, almost always is beyond the social network. It, in turn, can significantly limit people’s opportunities to remain anonymous in cases when they want it.

Internet usage seems to be anonymous only at the first sight. Certainly, the website, which people visited, knows the IP address of their computer. It seems there is no reason for concern as it is a separate site and a depersonalized address.

However, many sites, if not the majority, use special technologies for tracking their visitors. Even if it is not a portal with the user name and the password, every time one visits the site the “leakage” of the private information on the visitor of the site occurs (Bournazian, et. al., 2002). For example, popular technologies are built-in “bugs” in the form of images in 1 pixel, cookies or the JavaScript appendix (Bournazian, et. al., 2002).

Thus, the companies, providing these services, have an access to an enormous volume of information on the work of users in the Internet. They have a possibility of the data correlation concerning the visits of the sites. This allows creating the “profile” of the user, defining his/her tastes, habits, views, location and other individual characteristics.

However, when the concept “user” is mentioned, in most cases it goes about the anonymous IP address of the computer, or computers at which the user works. In other words, it is possible to receive a lot of data about users without their identification.

Today, possibilities of the information exchange on the Internet are really boundless and continue to develop. Social networks created a great possibility to connect the information between people on a global scale. “The Internet turned into the dynamic social environment uniting hundreds thousands people” (Chapman, 2007). As the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said, the aim of the company was to make the world more open and connected (Chapman, 2007).

So, confidentiality is an important element in the open information space of the Internet. Neglect of the human right to confidentiality, his/her rights of control of the personal information distribution leads to the loss of user trust, control strengthening. As a result, it leads to reduction of intensity and volume of information exchange.

Therefore, it is important to maintain this difficult balance between confidentiality and openness, convenience of using and leakage of private information. To some extent, users can take care of it through installations of the browser or a social network. For example, blocking the heading “Referer” in an inquiry or a ban of reception “cookie” from the sites of other people (Chapman, 2007). However, these measures are often ineffective. For example, it is almost impossible to refuse the use of “cookie” of the visited site today as it leads to an essential loss of browser functionality.

The founders of the sites and social networks can make essential contribution to the solution of this problem. For example, one can minimize the amount of information, sent to other people, or the site can inform users on a degree of openness of their data on a social network. They should do it without waiting the trial as it happened to the service Facebook under the name “Beacon”. All users of the network were automatically signed to this site in November, 2007 (Dickens, 2008). Thanks to “Beacon”, the friends of the users received notifications about their activity on some other sites, for example, about the purchase of cinema tickets. The case finished two years later. The service was closed and Facebook created the fund for works in the area of online confidentiality.

Knowledge and open discussion of the problems of confidentiality is a first step towards finding a solution. This problem on the Internet is almost solved. Users receive a bigger control on social networks, browsers care of safety and confidentiality of the customers. Despite everything, people want to communicate with their friends, relatives etc.  As for the problems of confidentiality in psychology, it is not so simple for the consultant to conform to the rules of ethics. The reasons are rather objective: it is difficult to observe standards of confidentiality in a huge variety of situations of the consultation. Each advisory contact is unique. Ethical orientations of the consultant organizations can not coincide with the ethical requirements of the consultant. In such cases the consultant faces a difficult choice. The consultant quite often gets into ethically inconsistent situations. Following the requirements of one norm, he/she can break another one. Business confidentiality surely needs protection, since only in this case the company will have a successful business, ensure economic safety, and protect itself from unfair competition.

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