Workplace confidentiality is a framework of workplace procedures and policies designed to maintain the integrity of confidential or potentially compromising information handled in the workplace. For certain types of information, there are laws about how the information should be handled, designed to maintain privacy for people trusting companies with confidential information. For others, no specific laws dictate information handling practices, but the workplace develops best practices on the grounds that the information should be protected.
Confidential information handled in a workplace includes things like client records, business planning and forecasting, employee records, and information collected in the course of research and development. Workplace confidentiality requires that this information be identified and secured to prevent unauthorized access or release of the information and includes everything from policies on workplace Internet usage to nondisclosure agreements in employee contracts.
Breaches of workplace confidentiality can result in a range of problems. Customers tend not to work with companies they think are untrustworthy, and consumers may specifically warn people away from companies that have mishandled private information like addresses, purchasing records, and credit card numbers. Companies can also experience compromises in their long term business plans if information about products in development or ideas a company is considering are released prematurely.
Many companies need to gather information as part of their work, ranging from hospitals maintaining patient records to Internet service providers logging traffic for research purposes and to identify unauthorized activity. Customers recognize that this information must be collected, and in exchange, expect a certain degree of confidentiality. Developing policies like keeping information in locked storage areas and limiting access to people with authorization or a need to know is important for keeping information confidential.
Workplaces also have employee records that include identifying information about employees, documentation of immigration status, payroll records, performance records, and so forth. Human resources departments must also practice workplace confidentiality to safeguard this information and prevent it from being used in inappropriate ways. Unfair use of information about employees could result in a lawsuit on the grounds of privacy violations.
In workplaces where confidentiality laws dictate how information can be processed, stored, and handled, employees may take workplace confidentiality training to learn how to handle the information appropriately. This training is used to familiarize employees with relevant laws and the procedures used in a given company to comply with the law. Trained employees may also be involved in the training of new hires and in the development of policies, procedures, and employee manuals.