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Archive for the ‘Confidentiality’ Category

Client/Investigator Privilege

Posted by collinsadmin on January 21, 2008

Investigative professionals and associations have very strict codes of ethics.  In general they are the same with a few additions and/or a few deletions but what seems to always remain the same is confidentiality. All investigative professionals whether it be private investigators, judgment recovery, bail enforcement agents, collections agencies, or repossessors have the obligation to provide client/investigator privilege. So where does the breach of client/investigator privilege end and normal everyday business begin?

Some would say unless the person who knows anything about the case is licensed in that field, it would be considered a breach of privilege.  This is a legally untenable position, which, if applied to all situations, would have the majority of professionals in trouble. It would eliminate the possibility of all of the following situations:

  • Unlicensed office secretaries, receptionists and assistants.
  • Unlicensed internet service providers.
  • Unlicensed photo developers.
  • Unlicensed sub-contractors of any kind.
  • Unlicensed computer repair techs. 

The standard consensus about breach of client privilege is, as long as somebody is doing work for the investigative professional, it is not a breach of confidentiality.  Sometimes business owners need to seek the help of outside professionals. It is both ethical, and good management to do so. The key is to select outsourcing professionals who are trustworthy, and who understand and respect the client confidentiality standard. 

Here are a few tips for increasing security when working with third party professionals:

  • Do a thorough background check on those whose services you utilize
  • Check references
  • Interview the person
  • Go with your gut feeling – often this is based on subtle, unexplainable reactions to body language, verbal inflection, or wording that you cannot pinpoint, but which all originate from legitimate informational sources.
  • Start with small tasks which are not highly sensitive. Work up to more confidential tasks as trust develops, and not before.
  • Create a good contract, which spells out your expected level of confidentiality, and their status as your representative for the tasks in question (so you have legal proof that they are acting on your behalf in the jobs in question). 

Ultimately, investigative professionals as well as other small business owners need to do their own due diligence before hiring anybody.  If the company being considered for hire won’t allow any type of “investigation”, run as fast as you can in the other direction.  If they won’t let potential clients do reasonable background checks (in relation to the confidentiality of the job in question) then they have something to hide.

Confidentiality is a serious issue. But the law provides for assistants and other helpers. Choose wisely, and your business can grow smoothly through any phase, even when the amount of work you need assistance with is small.

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Confidentiality and the Virtual Assistant

Posted by collinsadmin on September 24, 2007

Confidentiality is of huge importance to the small business owner in this ever changing technological society.  Every day, secrets are exposed, online and off, through carelessness or harmful intent. Confidentiality and trust have become major issues in outsourcing work of almost any kind.

I repeatedly hear the questions, “How do I know you won’t sell the information I give you to somebody else?”, and “How do I know you will be careful about protecting my information from exploitation?”  These are valid questions, which should be asked of ANY assistant, whether they are in your office, or outside your office.

Virtual assistants are small business owners who have worked hard to get their business off the ground.  They have spent hours and hours researching their industry, creating a website, creating logos, and marketing just like you have. It could take months maybe even years before their business is thriving, and they have invested heavily to get that result. It isn’t just a job to them. It is their passion, their life, and their livelihood. No thinking business owner will risk their hard work over an issue as important to the client as confidentiality. If an in-house assistant is careless about confidentiality, they may receive a reprimand or lose their job. If a VA is careless, they lose much more, because they are much more dependent upon their reputation to secure additional work – there are no laws which say you cannot tell someone EXACTLY why you fired them.

Information must be protected from accidental loss, as well as from carelessness and outside threats. A computer virus is costly to both the client, and the virtual assistant, but the virtual assistant has the most to lose. They lose time, may have to spend money for repairs, and they lose credibility, and if important data is lost, they must make restitution to the client. Anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware software are essential components on the computer of any virtual assistant. A firewall, encryption software (for encrypting emails on request), and security passwords are also basic elements that a virtual assistant installs and uses.

Print information is just as vulnerable as the technological information. The simple precaution of shredding and then burning all sensitive documents when the project is completed ensures that the information is destroyed in a way that cannot be reconstructed. Sensitive documents can be protected during the project, by storing them in a locked cabinet. The key is kept with the VA.

If you have confidentiality concerns about hiring a VA, here are some questions you can ask them:

  • 1. How do you secure confidential information on your computer?
  • 2. How do you secure confidential printed documents?
  • 3. What do you do with confidential documents at the conclusion of an assignment?
  • 4. What is your policy in regard to sharing information between clients?
  • 5. What do you consider to be confidential information?

The answers to these five questions will give you valuable information in regard to selecting a diligent and careful assistant, so you can begin to build a long term relationship with a professional who will aid you in growing your business.

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