Privacy versus Confidentiality

December 8, 2017 - Sharon Young, Analyst

Privacy and confidentiality are two concepts often mistaken to be the same thing.

In terms of information, privacy is the right of an individual to have some control over how his or her personal information (or personal health information) is collected, used, and/or disclosed. In Saskatchewan, individuals’ privacy is maintained through FOIP, LA FOIP and HIPA. These three laws establish individuals’ right to privacy by setting out how government institutions, local authorities, and trustees are to collect, use, and/or disclose personal information or personal health information.

Confidentiality, on the other hand, is a far slimmer concept than privacy. Confidentiality is the duty to ensure information is kept secret only to the extent possible.

It is important to distinguish between these two concepts. This is because organizations often require employees to sign confidentiality agreements (i.e., keep information secret) but then offer very little or no privacy training.  There are certainly circumstances in which employees of government institutions, local authorities, and trustee organizations need to legitimately share information in order for their programs to function. However, sharing information may seem contrary to what confidentiality agreements require of them.

Privacy Officers play a vital role in ensuring that government institutions, local authorities, and trustee organizations are in compliance with FOIP, LA FOIP, and/or HIPA.  Privacy Officers should be experts in these three laws who can advise their organizations when it is okay to collect, use, and/or disclose personal information (or personal health information).

For fun, below are two haikus to help explain privacy and confidentiality

Privacy

Collecting, using,

disclosing and safeguarding,

personal info.

 

Confidentiality

Keep info secret.

Do not tell anybody.

Or else you lose trust.

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