Confidential Business Information: Definition & Laws

Instructor: Jessica Mercado

I completed my BA in Criminal Justice in 2015. Currently working on my MS in Homeland Security Management.

Have you ever wanted to know the process for keeping business information confidential? This lesson covers all you need to know about what confidential business information is and what laws keep that information from being disclosed.

Know How to Protect Your Business

You and your colleague started a business selling dog food. You have information that is confidential to your company, including details related to operations, the dog food recipe, inventory, partnerships, and processes. When you were notified of an upcoming inspection, you did not realize you had to submit the confidential information to the host team in order for it to be handled as confidential information. When the inspection team arrived, they gathered up your business's confidential information and then informed you that the dog food recipe would be released to the public in order to allow consumers to make more informed choices when it came to their dog food.

It would have been helpful if your company knew how to protect their confidential business information. The following sections will cover the different types of confidential information and the laws in place to ensure protection of confidential information.

What Is Confidential Business Information?

Confidential business information is important information about a company that should not be public. If this type of information is disclosed, it could be harmful to the company's success. Confidential business information covers a wide array of subjects that have to do with the workings of a business. Some of this information could include:

  • Trade secrets
  • Purchases
  • Production processes
  • Shipments
  • Customer IDs
  • Inventory
  • Sources of income
  • Profits and expenditures
  • Partnerships

If any of this information, or other information related to business, is released, it could seriously impair the business' ability to operate effectively in the economy.

Laws Related to Confidential Business Information

The administrative laws mentioned below are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The information that is confidential to a business or company will not be considered confidential unless the business or company follows the processes outlines in these laws.

19 CFR 201.6 - This law covers the request for business information to be treated as confidential. The Secretary of the United States International Trade Commission is the only one able to approve or deny a request. The submitter can request an appeal of the Secretary's decision through the Commission. Below is a list of what is required to request confidentiality:

  • Description of information that is being requested to be confidential
  • Reason for why it should be confidential
  • Copy of document where the confidential information is located
  • A non-confidential copy of documents

29 CFR 90.33 - This law covers how confidential business information is marked. The confidential information needs to be on separate documentation with ''Confidential Information'' written at the top of the page to avoid accidental mix ups with the non-confidential information. In court hearings, any information that is marked as confidential will be addressed in a confidential exhibit with a general description to give an idea of what information is covered in the documents.

15 CFR 718.2 - Certain confidential information has to go through a protection process if outside parties will have access to it. If the confidential information is in declarations or reports, requires advance notification, or will be subject to government inspections, this law provides a protection in order to maintain non-disclosure.

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