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The latest Pistorius scandal reveals why confidentiality agreements are vital for your business

by , 03 June 2013
The world is in uproar that a photograph showing the scene where murder-accused paralympian Oscar Pistorius shot his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead was leaked to Sky News this weekend. While prosecutors are scrambling to ensure no further evidence makes it to the media ahead of Pistorius' pre-trial hearing, which is set to start tomorrow, the leak highlights something else: Just how important it is to have a confidentiality agreement to ensure your company's sensitive information is kept private and confidential...

'The leaking of evidential material into the public domain, before the court case, does not advance this [legal] process.' That's the official line of response the Pistorius' family gave this weekend after picture of the murder scene were leaked to Sky News, reports News24.

And while gruesome to look at, the leaking of these pictures may swing the court in Pistorius' favour, warns Hilton Botha, one of the first officers on the scene. Botha told News24 yesterday 'he believed [the pictures] were taken with a mobile phone. [And that this] means the defence team may have seen raw crime scene photos before they were officially disclosed to lawyers – potentially impeding the police investigation.'

So as you can see, the implications of leaking confidential, sensitive information are highly problematic – whether personal or business in nature.

Here's what you can do to protect your sensitive company information from being leaked

'A company's confidential information forms part of its assets. Such information includes the client base, corporate setup and, most importantly, ideas,' explains sgentrepreneurs.com.

That's why it's important to get your employees to sign non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements so they legally aren't able to disclose any confidential information they have access to while working for your company.

But just because they've signed the confidentiality agreement doesn't mean they won't spill the beans.

That's why you should also keep sensitive information on a strictly need to know basis. 'Employees should be able to access enough information to do their work well, but no more. For example, do not save your product's source code without encryption in a public shared drive, or leave client lists lying in plain sight,' warns sgentrepreneurs.com.

This is especially important if you notice a particular employee is more disgruntled than usual or if he's resigned.

And it's not just ideas you need to keep safe.

You also need to get relevant employees to sign confidentiality agreements if they're privy to personal information about your employees – including salary, performance and disciplinary issues, suggests The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

Bottom line: Having a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement in place will ensure employees think twice before leaking sensitive company information. It'll also mean you'll have legal recourse if they leak information. So make a key part of your company's exit interview policy reminding him of the confidentiality requirements in his employment contract or non-disclosure agreement.

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