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The huge scandal that erupted in late July, 2010 and involves leaked classified data to a site named WikiLeaks is causing dangerous problems for the country as a whole and more importantly, the troops overseas who continue to fight in a war that most believe no longer serves a purpose. It promises to result in big changes in the way confidentiality issues are handled in the United States. While your business may not hold secrets that can change the world, you do have an obligation to protect some areas of your employees and their confidentiality rights. If the wrong information is leaked, not only on your employees (both past and present), but your business dealings as well (think contracts with vendors, etc.), you stand to face legal repercussions, says A. Harrison Barnes, founder. Barnes, who is also a renowned attorney says one lawsuit can easily bring a small business down and has been known to severely cripple even bigger companies.

If you’re unsure of what information is classified and even the best methods for ensuring its safety, you should consult with your company’s attorney. Clarification is key and can prevent untold problems. There are medical confidentiality issues as well as workplace safety, drug and alcohol testing, background checks you might have conducted and all things related to salaries, bonuses and evaluations. While there are some gray areas in things such as bonuses and even salaries, there are clear lines on what’s legal and more importantly, what’s illegal. Even job applications should be treated as confidential.

Most companies have secured filing cabinets that are maintained in a company vault or even a reinforced closet area. Again, your lawyer can provide specifics that address your own company dynamics. Whatever those suggestions are, however, you have an obligation to ensure you’re covering the proverbial bases, says the founder.

For instance, in most states, there are compliance laws that require mortgage applications to remain on site, locked in filing cabinets and locked behind closed doors after normal business hours. This means every application taken on a running thirty-six month basis must be housed in the office that took the application. Further, some states even require a separate room reserved exclusively for mortgage closings. Because a title attorney is involved, privilege is attached. Even if the attorney is only there to witness the contract signings and ensure the laws are followed, it’s treated as though the homeowner is meeting with his or her representation.

While no one can know for sure what the ultimate outcome will be with this huge breach of security, courtesy of WikiLeaks, odds are, it will result in big (and long overdue, say some experts) changes in the way classified information is handled. Remember, A. Harrison Barnes encourages business owners to consult with their legal representation to ensure they’re not left vulnerable on all things related to confidentiality.

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