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Chapter: Professional Ethics in Engineering - Responsibilities and Rights

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Employee Role of Confidentiality

Confidentiality or confidential information: · Information considered desirable to be kept secret.

THE EMPLOYEE ROLE OF CONFIDENTIALITY:

 

Confidentiality or confidential information:

 

·        Information considered desirable to be kept secret.

 

·        Any information that the employer or client would like to have kept secret in order to compete effectively against business rivals.

 

·        This information includes how business is run, its products, and suppliers, which directly affects the ability of the company to compete in the market place

 

·        Helps the competitor to gain advantage or catch up


Privileged information, Proprietary information and Patents:

 

Privileged information:

 

·        Information available only on the basis of special privilege‟ such as granted to an employee working on a special assignment.

 

Proprietary information:

 

·        Information that a company owns or is the proprietor of.

·        This is primarily used in legal sense.

 

·        Also called Trade Secret. A trade secret can be virtually any type of information that has not become public and which an employer has taken steps to keep secret.

 

Patents:

 

·        Differ from trade secrets.

 

·        Legally protect specific products from being manufactured and sold by competitors without the express permission of the patent holder.

 

·        They have the drawback of being public and competitors may easily work around them by creating alternate designs.

 

Obligation of Confidentiality:

1. Based on ordinary moral considerations:

I. Respect for autonomy:

 

·        Recognizing the legitimate control over private information (individuals or corporations).

·        This control is required to maintain their privacy and protect their self-interest.

II. Respect for Promise:

 

·        Respecting promises in terms of employment contracts not to divulge certain information considered sensitive by the employer

 

III. Regard for public well being:

 

·        Only when there is a confidence that the physician will not reveal information, the patient will have the trust to confide in him.

 

·        Similarly only when companies maintain some degree of confidentiality concerning their products, the benefits of competitiveness within a free market are promoted.

 

2. Based on Major Ethical Theories:

 

·        All theories profess that employers have moral and institutional rights to decide what information about their organization should be released publicly.

 

·        They acquire these rights as part of their responsibility to protect the interest of the organization.

 

·        All the theories, rights ethics, duty ethics and utilitarianism justify this confidentiality but in different ways.

 

Effect of Change of Job on Confidentiality:

 

·        Employees are obliged to protect confidential information regarding former employment, after a change of job.

 

·        The confidentiality trust between employer and employee continues beyond the period of employment.

 

·        But, the employee cannot be forced not to seek a change of job.

 

·        The employer‘s right to keep the trade secrets confidential by a former employee should be accepted at the same time, the employee‘s right to seek career advancement cannot also be denied.

 

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