Confidentiality is an ethical principle associated with several professions (e.g., medicine, law). In ethics, and (in some places) in law and alternative forms of legal resolution such as mediation, some types of communication between a person and one of these professionals are “privileged” and may not be discussed or divulged to third parties.
Confidentiality has also been defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in ISO-17799 as “ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access” and is one of the cornerstones of information security. Confidentiality is one of the design goals for many cryptosystems, made possible in practice by the techniques of modern cryptography.
Confidentiality of information, enforced in an adaptation of the military’s classic “need to know” principle, forms the cornerstone of information security in today’s corporations. The so called ‘confidentiality bubble’ restricts information flows, with both positive and negative consequences.
The modern English law of confidence stems from the judgment of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, in which he restrained the defendant from publishing a catalogue of private etchings made by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Prince Albert v Strange).
However, the jurisprudential basis of confidentiality remained largely unexamined until the case of Saltman Engineering Co. Ltd. v Campbell Engineering Co. Ltd., in which the Court of Appeal upheld the existence of an equitable doctrine of confidence, independent of contract.
In Coco v A.N.Clark (Engineers) Ltd  R.P.C. 41, Megarry J developed an influential tri-partite analysis of the essential ingredients of the cause of action for breach of confidence: the information must be confidential in quality, it must be imparted so as to import an obligation of confidence, and there must be an unauthorised use of that information to the detriment of the party communicating it. We have Disclosure Agreements available for download immediately by clicking on the links available.