In a post I wrote about two years ago, I observed that the concept of private and confidential was taking a beating online.
On more than one occasion, I noticed how people seem to still confuse the concept of transparency with trust.
Even as we make the case for publicness, disclosing private information shared in confidence betrays the very trust someone has placed in you. Trust takes time to build. It takes a moment to destroy.
I'm not talking about whistle blowing on scams of which unfortunately we've had our fill in the last several years. And the best years, I'm sure, are yet to come.
What I'm talking about is more the personal kind of betrayal. The kind of indiscretion that a company wouldn't expect of its agency or consultant, for example — that's why there are enforceable NDAs. Or when a colleague knowingly throws you under the bus.
Today, it's not only companies that face the privacy in the age of transparency dilemma. (The article linked here is from 2004.)
"Privacy is about self-possession, autonomy, and integrity," wrote Simson Garfinkel, "Over the next fifty years we will see new kinds of threats to privacy that don't find their roots in totalitarianism, but in capitalism, the free market, advanced technology, and the unbridled exchange of electronic information."
Sharing information that is confidential is equivalent to stealing. Often though, the person leaking information — from a company, or a relationship — may be not fully aware of the damage they are causing and its consequences.
I've heard it more than once — if you don't want to see it quoted, don't publish it. Do we need to revisit our settings on trust and transparency in private conversations as well? Should we be cautiously open, or guarded and on the lookout for skilled manipulators?
The opposite of having nothing to hide is not airing all plans in plain sight. Where is the line? Are these tenets still valid in helping us assess how to go about earning the trust we are given?
1. Understand the importance of respect — an easy example is misquoting someone for the purposes of placing yourself in a good light.
2. Go by the "golden rule" — you often know when you're doing something that is not right. It feels off. Stop and consider what you'll gain carefully. There's a reason why sayings like "making a pact with the devil" exist. You end up being owned by the very betrayal you made.
3. Take the issue up with the person or parties involved first — this is more transparent than going above or around them. Breathe deeply and face the conversation and you will breathe more easily afterward.
Whether you're in the camp of trust needing to be hard earned or it being given freely will also say a lot about the kind of person and company you are. In the age of transparency, we still have a need for responsible and helpful filters.
Is betraying someone's confidence ever justified?
Trust is earned. Trust is more valuable than gold. People will pay for it. And if you're working to earn it now, you're already creating equity in the next economy.
[image: Trust Me was a show on TNT]