Handling Confidential Information at Workplace

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Corporate activities involve handling a wide range of information about the company's customers and business partners. Many of the data and documents used in business operations contain confidential and sensitive information. Highly confidential information must be handled with care because its leakage outside the company could lead to serious accidents.

This article explains such "confidential information" and "sensitive information. The difference between the two and measures against information leaks will also be explained.

Difference between confidential and sensitive information

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In the business world, the two words "confidential information" and "sensitive information" are sometimes used to mean the same thing. Both words have no clear definition and are easily confused, but strictly speaking, they have different meanings. First, we will explain the difference between confidential information and sensitive information.

Meaning of Confidential and Sensitive Information

Confidential information is information that is subject to confidentiality when entering into a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).Which information constitutes confidential information is agreed upon between the parties to the contract. The scope of confidential information also depends on the content of the contract concluded.

On the other hand.Confidential information is all information that is critical to a company or government agency.Among these, confidential information in a company is also called "trade secrets" or "company secrets" and must be handled with care. As with confidential information, leakage to the outside must be avoided.

Types and Examples of Confidential and Sensitive Information

Although confidential and sensitive information have different meanings, the information that may be covered is the same.

Potential information can be broadly classified into five categories: management information, financial and accounting information, R&D and technical information, human resources information, and marketing and public relations information.

<Types and Examples of Confidential and Sensitive Information

Type of information  Specific examples of applicable information
Management Information  Business plans, inventory information, M&A information, etc.
Financial and accounting information  Budget and sales information, financing information, joint venture plans, etc.
R&D and Technical Information  Design drawings, study reports, project specifications, etc.
Personnel Information  Salary information, promotion information, transfer information, etc.
Marketing and Public Relations Information  Sales history, sales promotion information, customer information, business partner information, etc.


As a typical example, personal information about customers and employees is considered to be included in confidential and sensitive information. In general, personal information includes data such as name, age, address, and gender, as well as the person's purchase history and website browsing history.

Synonyms with similar meanings to Confidential and Secret Information

Difference between Confidential and Confidential Information and Trade Secrets

While no clear definition exists for confidential and proprietary information, "trade secrets" are legally defined. The explanation is contained in Article 2, Paragraph 6 of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.

(2) The term "trade secret" as used in this Act means a production method, sales method, or other technical or business information useful for business activities that is maintained as a secret and is not publicly known.

[Source.Unfair Competition Prevention Act (Act No. 47 of 1993)" e-Gov Legal Search

Trade secrets as defined in the Unfair Competition Prevention Law have three requirements: first, "confidentiality," which corresponds to the "managed as a secret" part; second, "usefulness," which corresponds to the "useful business or technical information;" and third, "nonpublicity," which corresponds to the "not publicly known. The third is "not publicly known.

However, information about anti-social activities such as tax evasion, information disclosed as patents, and information described in publications do not constitute trade secrets.

Reference:Handbook for Protection of Confidential Information: Toward Enhancing Corporate Value" (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

Difference between Confidential and Confidential Information and Outside Confidential Information

Confidential information is confidential information that could cause losses if leaked outside the company. Information can be shared with people inside the company, but not with outside parties such as business partners or consumers. Examples include confidential documents such as meeting minutes and work rules.

Confidential information is classified according to its level of importance, and is classified as "Top Secret," "Secret," or "Outside Confidential" in descending order of confidentiality. Certain information classified as "Top Secret" or "Secret" is considered to be more vulnerable to loss due to leakage than confidential information outside the company, and can only be accessed by a limited number of people within the company.

Unlike confidential information, confidential information is not subject to a nondisclosure agreement. In addition, confidential information can be shared within the company, but confidential information may not be shared even within the company depending on its importance.

Difference between confidential and sensitive information

Sensitive information, also known as "sensitive information," refers to personal information that requires careful handling. Leakage of information may expose individuals to social risks such as discrimination or cause psychological damage.

Examples of sensitive information include information about an individual's political views, religious beliefs, race or ethnicity, and place of birth or legal domicile. Careful handling of information is necessary to protect personal privacy.

Sensitive information differs from confidential information in that it is not subject to a nondisclosure agreement. In addition, confidential information is information about companies and national organizations, whereas sensitive information is information about individuals.

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Risk of leaking confidential and sensitive information

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What risks are posed to a company if confidential and sensitive information is leaked? This section explains the risks posed by information leakage incidents.

May lose credibility and trust from society

The discovery and spread of information leaks is a major problem that can lower the trust of customers, business partners, and society. If a breach or accident triggers distortion of information or false rumors through comments made by a third party on a social networking service, there is a concern that the company will be exposed to reputational damage. If the company loses credibility and trust from society in this way, it could be a serious crisis that could affect the survival of the company.

Damages may be claimed.

In the unlikely event that a company's information leakage accident causes some kind of loss to the victim, the company may be required to pay compensation for damages. In Japan, there have been cases of large-scale personal information leaks in the past, in which companies have compensated their customers for damages.

The more sensitive the information, the more serious the damage from a leak may be.

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List of Risks of Information Leakage|Examples of Damage by Type and Suggested Countermeasures by Cause

The majority of information leaks are caused by human error by employees. Improving internal information security education will help reduce the risk. In this issue, we introduce the risks that information leaks pose to companies, measures to prevent their occurrence, and the response flow in the event of an outbreak.

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How to prevent leaks of confidential and sensitive information

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To prevent information leakage incidents, it is important to strictly adhere to company rules on a daily basis and maintain a secure IT environment. Finally, we would like to share with you some points to prevent leaks of confidential and sensitive information.

Restrict and prevent bringing in and taking out recording media

In principle, it is prohibited to bring in and use any media capable of storing confidential and sensitive information within the company. For example, carrying data on USB memory sticks or external hard disks carries the risk of loss or theft.
Similarly, it is also undesirable to use media in the employee's personal possession for business purposes.

It is also important to stipulate and clearly state rules restricting where company computers can be taken out of the office and where they can be used. New management methods may be introduced to keep information assets safe, such as requiring employees to apply in advance when taking computers out of the office.

The proliferation of telework has increased the need for stricter enforcement of these rules.

Install and update security software

Install security software on company computers and other terminals to protect your company's IT equipment and network from damage caused by viruses and unauthorized access. Terminals that already have security software downloaded should also support periodic updates.

Keep your software up-to-date with updates and be prepared for new cybercrime tactics.

Raise employee awareness of information security

In order to keep your company's confidential and sensitive information safe, it is important that each of you understand the basics of information security and handle information within your company appropriately. For systematic learning of information security, please consider implementing training programs.

In this case, use an e-learning system that also has a learning management function so that you can check employee proficiency.

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Confidential and sensitive information, and measures to be taken on both sides by holding the difference between confidential and sensitive information.

We have explained the difference between confidential information and sensitive information handled by a company. Confidential and sensitive information have different connotations, but share the same type of information they cover.
Based on the precautions we have given you, strengthen your company's internal security measures to ensure safe operations.

When informing employees about information security in your company, you can use the following words.learningBOX ONPlease take advantage of the information security training content in the "Information Security Training" section.
learningBOX ON is a service that makes it easy to add company-required training content to learningBOX, an e-learning creation and management system. You can easily design your own original learning courses by combining them with your company's in-house content.

Information Security TrainingMoreover, learningBOX includes versatile features such as gamification and personalized functions, which will enhance employee engagement.

You can start for free and try how it works for training.


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