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Confidential Information Basics

Every employee should understand the basics of identifying and handling of company and third party confidential information. This begins when a new employee joins your company and should be periodically refreshed to accommodate new and ongoing relationships.

Confidential information is generally defined as information disclosed to an individual employee or known to that employee as a consequence of the employee’s employment at a company. This information isn’t generally known outside the company or is protected by law. Confidential information can include information in any form, such as written documents/records or electronic data.

Examples of Confidential Information
Business & Marketing Plans  Information Received from Third Parties
Company Initiatives
Company Financial Account Information
Customer Information and Lists
Social Security Numbers
Information Relating to Intellectual Property
Payroll and Personnel Records
Invention or Patent Health Information
Research Data Self-Restricted Personal Data
Passwords and IT-related Information Credit Card Information

5 Examples of How Confidential Information Can Be Used

  1. Protect ideas that offer a competitive advantage, enabling a company or individual to get a head start on the competition (e.g., an idea for a new type of product or a new website). 
  2. Keep competitors from learning that a product or service is under development and from discovering its functional or technical attributes (e.g., how a new software program works).
  3. Protect valuable business information such as marketing plans, cost and price information and customer lists (e.g., a company’s plans to launch a new product line).
  4. Protect “negative know-how.” That is, information you’ve learned during the course of research and development on what not to do or what does not work optimally (e.g., research revealing that a new type of drug is ineffective).
  5. Protect any other information that has some value and is not generally known by your competitors (e.g., a list of customers ranked by how profitable their business is).