We share secrets with other people daily, from trivial "I've just heard that..." gossips to stuff like "My best friend's girlfriend is pregnant. By me." (LEGAL DISCLAIMER: [Insert a blob about "for illustration purposes only" and "forward-looking statement"
here] - my friends are either married or don't have girlfriends, not that it would have changed anything).
When I make a new business contact, online or offline, I often need to send that person some commercially sensitive information as the next step. We are not talking about state secrets or Coca-Cola formula, but simply something which you cannot Google (yet).
If we were having a personal conversation, face-to-face or over the phone, and I had to disclose such information, I'd say "in complete confidence" or "entrez nous" (I think "sub
rosa" would draw strange looks). And then we would carry on with our conversation as normal. During media interviews, it is a common practice to use "off the record" (that doesn't mean, by the way, the journalists would not use or publish the information
you share - they simply cannot attribute it to you).
But when it comes to sharing sensitive information via emails, people react differently. At TEDIPAY, irrespective of whether we have an NDA in place with the recipient or not, we always mark sensitive information and data as "strictly confidential" (often
in block capitals, marked in bold and highlighted in yellow). That is the analogy of saying "we chose to trust you and would appreciate/expect you to keep that information to yourself."
Yet, sometimes the recipients would respond with "I cannot receive confidential documentation without suitable legal agreements in place". Do we really need an agreement to share something with someone on the "for your eyes/ears only" basis? What has happened
to common sense? And the gentlemen's handshake? Do BLOCK CAPITALS in bold scare people? (Apparently, they do - we get fewer "NDA scares" when we use simple "in confidence", although the meaning is still the same).
A disclaimer does not automatically constitute an obligation (take warnings on cigarette packs, for example). It's a simple request. Like "please". Treat it that way. Please.
Apologies for somewhat off-the-topic post - most of the "NDA scares" we get are from the banks, so there is a link there.