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Protecting Confidential Information and Trade Secrets from Defecting Employees


In today's business world, the entirety of a company's most significant infor­mation can be uploaded to a device the size of a thumbnail and taken by a departing employee. The consequences can be devastating. With advances in technology, it is more important than ever for companies to identify their confi­dential information and institute measures to preserve and protect that informa­tion from employees who decide to leave the company.

Use Technology to Control Information

As a first step, companies should consider which employees need access to what information. Once the determination is made, employers should require passwords to access any company computer, and use additional passwords to restrict employees who do not need to view more sensitive company informa­tion. Some companies are even employing voice-recognition software and more advanced methods of confirming identities before allowing access to more sensi­tive information. In addition, businesses can consider encrypting files and folders that they do not want easily accessed.

Companies that allow employees to access or store confidential in­formation on their personal devices should particularly consider protect­ing information through technology. Higher-end controls may be needed for documents on remote comput­ers or mobile devices, and com­panies may want to contemplate requiring software on laptops and smartphones that will enable the company to remotely wipe the pro­prietary contents of these devices as soon as the employee resigns.

Implement Agreements

Although a company can go a long way toward protecting its in­formation through the use of soft­ware and other technology, these methods are not fullproof. There­fore, companies should also insti­tute policies affirming that compa­ny information is confidential and must be treated as such. Companies should consider what types of in­formation they deem confidential and proprietary, and describe that information in their confidential­ity agreements. Since an increasing number of employees are re-creat­ing information once they arrive at their new employer, the company should also specify that even infor­mation retained in memory is con­fidential and should not be used or disclosed other than to conduct busi­ness on behalf of the company.

Disseminate a Social Media Policy

Many companies encourage em­ployees — particularly those in­volved in sales and marketing — to use social media sites to increase their contacts and communicate with customers. Yet, this social interac­tion, which is very beneficial while the employee is working to promote the company’s interests, can also be used to divert information and cus­tomers once the employee resigns.

Crafting a social media policy that will protect your company’s confi­dential information and limit com­munications with customers will likely be one of the most important steps that the company takes to pro­tect itself, as the Internet and social media redefine how companies do business.

Monitor Employees and Conduct Exit Interviews

If the company suspects that an employee might be planning to resign, it should not wait to begin monitoring her activities. By moni­toring an employee before she de­parts, a company can learn about activities that may be harder to de­tect after she leaves.

The article appeared in Volume 28, Number 8 of the The Corporate Counselor in November 2013. Please click link to read entire article.

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