How to Identify a Document As Confidential

By Patrick Gleeson, Ph. D.,
A "confidential" ink stamp.

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With the increasing breadth, speed and variety of means available for digital communication, protecting the confidentiality of documents has become a concern for businesses and individuals. As a U.S. Department of Commerce paper on the subject points out, maintaining document confidentiality begins with the appropriate identification of documents that need to be protected. An organization's underlying structure needs to evaluate documents requiring confidentiality early in the process -- before they are disseminated -- or attempts to maintain confidentiality will generally fail to meet desired goals.

Enabling Confidentiality Procedures

A Purdue University paper on protecting the confidentiality of documents notes that for a confidentiality program to work, an organization must hire or train personnel qualified to identify document classes requiring confidentiality, and these people must work to create a culture of document confidentiality within every department in an organization. Procedures must be routinized that identify the wide variety of documents that require confidentiality treatment. And personnel must understand what steps are necessary to protect them. Among digital and paper document classes that typically require early identification are those identifying employees or customers by age, gender, disability status, Social Security number, home address, benefits, claims and all personnel decisions and credit card transaction data. Research, even if not eligible for patents or copyrights, must also be identified and procedures put in place to ensure confidentiality.

An Easy Process

Marking a document "Confidential" is easy enough to do, depending on which word processing software you employ. In Word, click "Page Layout." Then, click "Watermark," and choose "Confidential." That watermark will appear on the printed version of the document. You also can preview it in "Print Layout" or "Full Screen Reading." Other software offer similar functions. You also can rubber stamp "Confidential" on the pages of printed documents.

About the Author

I am a retired Registered Investment Advisor with 12 years experience as head of an investment management firm. I also have a Ph.D. in English and have written more than 4,000 articles for regional and national publications.

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