confidentiality [English]

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Syndetic Relationships

InterPARES Definition

n. ~ The expectation that private facts entrusted to another will be kept secret and will not be shared without consent.

Other Definitions

  • Black's 9th 2009 (†382 p. 339): 1. Secrecy; the state of having the dissemination of certain information restricted. ¶ confidential ~ 1. (Of information) meant to be kept secret . . . – 2. (Of a relationship) characterized by trust and a willingness to confide in the other.
  • Health Informatics 2008 (†703 s.v. "3.7 confidentiality"): Property that information is not made available or disclosed to unauthorized individuals, entities or processes. [SOURCE: ISO 7498-2:1989, definition 3.3.16]
  • Information Security Handbook Glossary 2009 (†486 ): The ability to limit access to authorized individuals. Used interchangeably with privacy when referring to personal or customer data. Confidentiality is achieved through the use of access controls, encryption, "know-your-customer" procedures, etc.


  • Bushey et al. 2016 (†755 ): Does the Provider have a confidentiality policy in regards to its employees, partners, and subcontractors? (†1898)
  • Cohen 2008 (†652 p. 176): Confidentiality is usually controlled based on the clearance of the identity, certainty of the authentication of that identity, classification of the content, and need for the authorized purpose. (†1478)
  • Heffernan 2014 (†368 ): IBM (NYSE: IBM) inventors have received a patent for a breakthrough data encryption technique that is expected to further data privacy and strengthen cloud computing security. ¶ The patented breakthrough, called “fully homomorphic encryption,” could enable deep and unrestricted analysis of encrypted information – intentionally scrambled data – without surrendering confidentiality. IBM’s solution has the potential to advance cloud computing privacy and security by enabling vendors to perform computations on client data, such as analyzing sales patterns, without exposing or revealing the original data. (†372)
  • Hunter 2014 (†602 p.18): You should require the [cloud] provider to sign a confidentiality agreement wherein the provider promises to keep your company’s data confi dential and that establishes a protocol for notice of inadvertent or compulsory disclosure of your company’s confidential data. (†1387)
  • ISACA Glossary (†743 s.v. confidentiality): Preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including means for protecting privacy and proprietary information. (†1770)
  • Law 2011 (†581 s.v. confidentiality agreement): An agreement whereby an organization that has access to information about the affairs of another organization makes an undertaking to treat the information as private and confidential. A potential buyer of a company who requires further information in the process of due diligence may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that the information will only be used for the purpose of deciding whether to go ahead with the deal and will only be disclosed to employees involved in the negotiations. Such agreements are also used where information is shared in the context of a partnership or benchmarking program. (†1137)
  • Moskop et al. 2005 (†506 p. 53): In the famous oath attributed to Hippocrates, ancient Greek physicians pledged to respect confidentiality in these words: "What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about." (†785)
  • Moskop et al. 2005 (†506 p. 54): Confidentiality is closely related in meaning to one of the major uses of the term "privacy," namely, informational privacy. In health care interactions, patients communicate sensitive personal information to their caregivers so that the caregivers can understand patients’ medical problems and treat them appropriately. By calling such information confidential, we indicate that those who receive the information have a duty to protect it from disclosure to others who have no right to the information. Caregivers can breach confidentiality intentionally by directly disclosing patient information to an unauthorized person or inadvertently by discussing patient information in such a way that an unauthorized person can overhear it. (†787)
  • NIST 2013 (†734 p. B-5): Preserving authorized restrictions on information access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information. [44 U.S.C., Sec. 3542] (†1840)
  • Vickery 1982 (†505 p. 1427-1428): Every member of society engages in relationships of trust and confidence. We turn to doctors, lawyers, counselors, teachers, bankers, accountants, and others for assistance in matters beyond our individual knowledge or capacities. [Note: This Note is concerned primarily with nonpersonal confidential relationships, rather than relationships of a personal nature with family or friends. . . . ] Relationships of this kind require us to lower our defenses and permit some intrusion into our personal lives. Specialists who advise us must have access to complete information for their advice to be effective. A person who lacks training in a specialty cannot separate relevant information from irrelevant, so all must be revealed. . . . ¶ To foster candor and cooperation within such relationships, those who advise or assist us ordinarily hold forth an assurance of secrecy. The source of this assurance is usually customary practice and common understanding, though professional codes of ethics or statutes n6 mandate confidentiality in certain relationships. Whether formalized or not, the assurance of secrecy is vital to the success of the relationship. We rely on it initially in forming the relationship, and thereafter in revealing what we would otherwise hold back. ¶ These two elements -- the assurance of secrecy and the reliance it evokes -- are the essential ingredients of what can be termed a "confidential relationship." The giver of information places himself in a vulnerable position in reliance on the assurance of secrecy and thus has a legitimate expectation of confidentiality. The receiver of the information, by implicitly holding out the assurance associated with his occupation, invites the reliance and thus has an obligation not to disappoint the giver's expectation. Most would agree that revealing to a third party any private information learned within the relationship constitutes a moral wrong. (†783)
  • Vickery 1982 (†505 p. 1434-1435): A disclosure to a third person in breach of confidence invades two distinct interests of the wronged individual: first, his general interest in the security of the confidential relationship and his corresponding expectation of secrecy; and second, his specific interest in avoiding whatever injuries will result from circulation of the information. The first interest is important because the expectation of secrecy prompts the communication of embarrassing information in the first place. If it is disappointed, the wronged party is likely to remain silent in circumstances that would otherwise call for frankness, in both the relationship violated and possibly in other confidential relationships essential to the person's welfare and prosperity. Even a limited disclosure of relatively innocuous information may destroy the individual's sense of security and deter future candor. ¶ The extent of invasion of the second interest depends on the content of the disclosure and the nature of the audience. The more intimate or embarrassing the information, the more damaging the disclosure probably will be. The wronged party may suffer ridicule, loss of business or professional reputation, or deterioration of personal relationships. Though injury often flows from widespread publication of disclosed information, the greatest injury may well be caused by disclosure to a single person, such as an employer or a spouse. ¶ The breach of confidential relationships also jeopardizes societal interests. Beyond a general interest in promoting justice between individuals when the conduct of one has injured another, society has specific interests in assuring that certain types of confidential relationships are respected. For example, the physical and mental health of individuals is a fundamental societal concern. Because confidentiality promotes the full disclosure necessary to effective medical treatment, society has an interest in fostering doctor patient confidences. Similarly, enforcement of lawyer-client confidences advances society's interest in having its members fully apprised of their legal rights and obligations. (†784)