Confidential data must be protected in a variety of ways. This firm will draft or review confidentiality agreements to protect business information such as customer/client lists; pricing information; trademarks or intellectual property. The firm will also advise a client of additional methods to safeguard such data by using passwords, daily log-on agreements (which acknowledge the proprietary nature of the data before access is granted) and other protective actions. When it comes to protecting such data, a company cannot just lock the front door and leave all the windows and back entrances unlocked. Various methods must be used.
Q. I signed a confidentiality agreement but my employer never explained what was considered confidential information. I no longer work for the company. I do not want to violate the agreement but I am uncertain how to treat the information I have on my PDA and my personal laptop. What should I do?
It is important that each employee obtain a copy of the agreement he signed for his files. Simply make a request to an employer stating, “a fully signed copy is needed so that I am will know my obligations going forward…). The employer has no reason to keep an employee from having a copy. Such a document should contain a definition of “confidential information.” Additionally, an employer should clearly identify what is considered confidential information by either labeling such documents as confidential, using water marks on documents to establish confidentiality, limiting access to such documents via passwords and periodically auditing the copying and downloading of such information. If a PDA or laptop is owned by the individual employee, employers should insist that employees who are leaving turning in their PDAs and laptops for inspection so the company can confirm that no confidential information remains in the employee’s possession. Of course, in this day and age it is easy to transmit data to offsite storage. Ideally, employers should own all technology given to employees such as cell phones, PDAs and laptops so that the devices can be retrieved when the employee leaves the company. This will allow employers to have forensics performed on the equipment to see if any confidential data has been copied or missing. Employers who fail to truly protect their confidential data will be fighting an uphill battle in proving that there has been a breach of a confidentiality agreement.