Recently by Bill Rounds: Bank Privacy
I have seen some very good disclosures on Wikileaks. The crown jewel is the footage of the helicopter attack on several civilians and journalists. In particular, the premeditated and deliberate shooting and killing of a group of people who are clearly unarmed and giving aid to one victim who is badly injured, and trying to crawl away to safety. Giving the shooters the benefit of the doubt, the “fog of war” may have contributed to the act, but not to the investigation following the attack. The footage released by WikiLeaks calls into question the accuracy of official military statements and reports on the incident.
Violence, threats of violence and fraud do not deserve privacy. They deserve sunlight. But there are still a lot of legitimate secrets. Good secrets have nothing to do with violence or fraud. I have seen some of those legitimate secrets on the tabloid covers at the grocery store, and I have seen some on WikiLeaks.
Whether you think the idea of WikiLeaks is a good thing or not, the reality is that there is a growing capability and culture of disclosing secrets to the public. It doesn’t matter whether the secrets are legitimate or not. And in most cases, the law will not protect you if you confide in someone who later reveals your legitimate, but juicy, secrets.
So how do you minimize the risk of people revealing your closely held and legitimate secrets?
How to Avoid Disclosure Of Financial Information
Unfortunately, banks, accountants and other financial professionals are often required by law to tattle, a topic covered thoroughly in the Bank Privacy report. The only way to avoid financial disclosure is to avoid using the formal banking system. The best way to avoid the formal financial system is to use things like Bitcoin to store and transfer value.
How To Avoid Disclosure of Business and Personal Information
Where it is legal, a Non-Disclosure Agreement, otherwise known as a Confidentiality Agreement or NDA, can help prevent disclosure of your sensitive information, and can be a way to compensate you in the event of a disclosure, even if it was an accident.
NDAs allow people to protect their competitive advantage, negotiation strategies, technical details, trade secrets, personal information, and lots of other stuff. If you have an NDA, a court can usually prevent a disclosure or improper use of confidential information before it causes any damage. This is usually by far the best remedy. It is not always the only remedy.
You might be able to get money damages if you can prove that you either were harmed financially, or that the other person unjustly gained from using or disclosing the confidential information. In some cases, you can even get punitive damages.
Best Way To Use An NDA
There are lots of good, free NDAs you can find on the internet that can be easily tailored to meet your own needs. Laws can be different in different areas and language needs to be carefully drafted to protect what you want to protect, so you might want to have an attorney draft one for you. A free sample NDA is usually a good place to start from.
There are also some good negotiating skills that come into play when using NDAs. Any information protected by an NDA should be something that you can summarize into non-confidential generalities. Those generalities are a way to communicate the essence of the information before you reveal any real secrets. Once both parties have decided it would be worthwhile to share more, approach them with an NDA. If you are too aggressive with asking for an NDA and you make people sign an NDA before you say a word, you won’t be saying very many words.
Where An NDA Will Not Work
There is some information that cannot be protected by an NDA. For example, banks in the US must reveal certain information to the government. Also, an NDA will be ineffective if it seeks to cover up illegal activity, evidence of a crime, or is in some other way against public policy. You can’t have someone sign an NDA, reveal your criminal mastermind plot to them, and expect the NDA to be upheld if they share your plot with police.
Like it or not, your valuable and legitimate secrets might be revealed by anyone you share them with. The law does not protect that information unless you protect it yourself. NDA’s are the best way to prevent valuable information that are legitimate secrets from being disclosed by tattletales who are deluded into thinking they are doing some good. Those aren’t the only threats. The book How To Vanish is full of other tips to help you control how much of your private information is made public. Sign up for the email list, if you haven’t done so already, to get the latest legal tools and strategies for protecting and controlling how much of your private information is available to the public.
Reprinted with permission from How to Vanish.
Bill Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties.