Are You “Over-Promising” on Confidentiality & Privacy?

“Over-promising” often occurs as a result of making unqualified statements. Sometimes, those statements are made inadvertently; other times, they may be made recklessly or through ignorance.  Sometimes they are harmless; other times, they can mislead and create false expectations that cannot be met.

One area in which it’s always good to be wary of unqualified statements is the area of confidentiality and privacy.

For example, if as a mediator, I were to say to the parties something like:

Information you give me is confidential. I will never, in any circumstances, disclose it

I would be “over-promising”. That’s because there may be circumstances where disclosure could be required or permitted by law.

Similarly, if a recruiter were to say to a candidate something like:

Information about our candidates can never, in any circumstances, be disclosed for a purpose other than finding them employment

that recruiter might be “over-promising”. Again, that is because there may be circumstances where disclosure could be required or permitted by law. You can probably think of a few of them. Some of them appear as exceptions to privacy principles. There may be other exceptions that apply at common law. In fact, your recruitment software (including integrated, third-party software ) probably captures and discloses information that you might not even have thought about!

By over-promising, you can end up misleading people into divulging information, which they might not have willingly disclosed if you had qualified your promise properly. Consent may have been improperly obtained – not being sufficiently informed. And the information may have been collected and disclosed unfairly.

In short, “over-promising” on confidentiality and privacy crosses the boundaries of professionalism. So, it’s essential to know where the limits of confidentiality and privacy lie and to mark them out with carefully considered and qualified statements.

 

Andrew C. Wood

 

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