Handling Confidential Information at Workplace
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 or 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
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 Information and Confidential Information
Confidential information is information that is subject to confidentiality when entering into a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Which information falls under the category of confidential information is agreed upon between the parties to the agreement. The scope of confidential information also depends on the content of the concluded agreement.
Confidential information, on the other hand, is any information that is important to a company or national organization. Among them, confidential information in a company is also called "trade secret" or "company internal secret," and must be handled with care. Like confidential information, it must be kept from leaking outside the company.
Types and Examples of Confidential and Secret Information
Although confidential and sensitive information have different meanings, the information that may be covered is the same.
There are five main types of information that can be covered: management information, financial and accounting information, R&D and technical information, personnel information, and marketing and public relations information.
＜Types and Examples of Confidential and Sensitive Information
Type of information
Specific examples of applicable 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, research reports, project specifications, etc.
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 meaning to Confidential and Secret Information
Difference between Confidential and Confidential Information and Trade Secret
Confidential information and confidential information do not have clear definitions, whereas "trade secrets" are legally defined. The explanation is contained in Article 2, Paragraph 6 of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.
In this law, "trade secret" 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
There are three requirements for a trade secret as defined in the Unfair Competition Prevention Act: first, "confidentiality," which corresponds to the part "managed as a secret"; second, "usefulness," which corresponds to the part "useful business or technical information;" and third, "utility," which corresponds to the part "not openly known. The third is "not publicly known.
However, information about anti-social activities such as tax evasion, information published as patents, and information described in publications do not fall under the category of trade secrets.
Reference] "Handbook for Protection of Confidential Information: Toward Enhancing Corporate Value" (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)
Difference between Confidential Information, Confidential Information and External 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 people outside the company, 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 Information, Confidential Information and Sensitive Information
Sensitive information, also called "sensitive information," refers to personal information that requires careful handling. Leakage of such 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 confidentiality agreement. In addition, confidential information is information about companies and government agencies, whereas sensitive information is information about individuals.
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Risk of Leaking Confidential and Sensitive Information
What risks are posed to a company if confidential and sensitive information is leaked? This section explains the risks posed by information leakage incidents.
Risk of losing credibility and trust from society
The discovery and spread of an information leak is a major problem that could 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.
Claims for damages may arise.
In the unlikely event that a company's information leakage causes some kind of loss to the victim, the company may be sued for 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 is, the more serious the damage may be.
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How to Prevent the Leakage of Confidential and Secret Information
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, prohibit the bringing in and use of 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 for employees to use their personal media for business purposes.
It is also important to stipulate and clearly state rules restricting the taking out of company computers and where they may 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.
With the spread of telework, there is an increasing need to more rigorously negotiate 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 and every employee understands the basics of information security and handles information within the 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 the proficiency level of your employees.
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Confidential and Confidential Information: Keeping the Difference Between Confidential and Confidential Information and Taking Steps on Both Sides
We have explained the difference between confidential information and sensitive information handled by companies. Confidential and sensitive information have different connotations, but the types of information they cover are common. Based on the precautions we have provided, strengthen your internal security measures and aim for safe operations.
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We encourage you to use this service for your in-house training programs, as the contents for information security training and compliance training are available free of charge.
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