Almost every person has at least one smart phone, tablet or similar device and soon Google Glass will become common. We have all come to expect real time communications and we have so much confidence in technology that we enter into important contracts with our digital signatures using our smart phone touch screens.
Whether we realize it or not, these devices present challenges to the protection of our trade secrets. For example, regardless of motive, an employee may photograph and share highly sensitive information or a vendor who overhears a confidential conversation may tweet the details. Every company can benefit from analyzing the risks of smart devices and how the company’s practices can be adapted to mitigate those risks. In fact, if a company fails to update their confidentiality policies and practices to remain current with technological advances, under certain circumstances, it may be deemed to have failed to exercise the requisite vigilance and forfeited trade secret protection.
It is always good to first consult with your employment law advisor to ensure compliance with the employee’s right including the right to engage in protected concerted activities set forth in the National Labor Relations Act. The following can be considered:
- Educating Employees: Companies can take an opportunity to educate and remind employees that certain information is confidential and considered a trade secret. Educating employees on properly labeling confidential information, protecting trade secrets, as well as appropriate and inappropriate use of technology when working with confidential information or during confidential business meetings can reduce risks.
- Identify and Limit Access to Core Trade Secrets: Every business has varying levels of sensitive information. Some information can be considered so confidential that a company can add safeguards including requiring access only by a password.
- Limit Use of Smart Phones and Devices: The company can designate certain work areas or conference rooms so sensitive that employees are not permitted to bring their smart phones and devices with them.