Privacy has always been a critical part of business. There's plenty of scenarios surrounding privacy, including keeping proprietary client information secure and not letting a product introduction be compromised.

The reality is that sensitive facts and conversations are constantly swirling around in a massive collection of communication oral and written. With new technologies and more business being done on the road, there are additional chances to reveal sensitive information and even less privacy.

Laptop computers, e-mail, faxes and cell phones are just some of the newer communication modes that can pose a problem for privacy. All it takes is one indiscreet comment, overheard conversation, intercepted e-mail or lost fax. The results can be embarrassing, if not catastrophic.

The best way to protect against having sensitive information stolen or overhead is to not discuss it or leave a paper trail. When taking a road trip (business or pleasure) only bring essential documents.

Some people try to obtain corporate secrets in public places. If you're on public transportation (planes, buses, trains, etc.), remember that others can view your laptop computer screen. Don't work on confidential information like client materials, performance appraisals, corporate presentations, etc.

E-mail can also cause problems. Although on the surface, e-mails seem private, they're anything but. Even when an e-mail recipient or sender deletes a message, it's easily retrieved from trash files and hard drives. Remember to watch what you say. Consider what may happen if the message is read by someone else. You wouldn't want a client's secrets revealed or your off-color joke to be read by the wrong person.

As with e-mail, faxes are not always private. The intended recipient may not be the person retrieving the fax. If faxing to public places like hotels, always leave out any sensitive information.

Cell phones are a great way to keep in touch while traveling. But remember where you are before you start speaking it's a matter of privacy and courtesy. If you're using a cell phone on a bus, train or plane, people will eavesdrop it's impossible not to. It's up to you to ensure they won't hear something they shouldn't. Even if you've taken measures to protect your privacy, using mobile phones (and other cordless phones) can be risky others may be able to listen in on your conversations on the same channel or if the signal crosses.

Privacy is not just an issue for road warriors. Most people don't travel on business; they work in traditional work environments. Many workers exist in a maze of cubicles or partitions with no doors and, therefore, no privacy.

People who work in cubicles need to remember the unspoken rule of cubicle etiquette: Yes, you overhear every word that's spoken by your neighbors, but you need to act like you are not listening. What should you do if confidential business information is overheard? Keep it to yourself! The same is true for any personal details that you may unavoidably hear. You will create lasting and productive relationships with fellow workers a content cubicle community if you remember the proper protocol behind cubicle survival.

The overriding rule of thumb when it comes to business privacy is to always be careful where you hold a conversation or when you communicate. You never know who may overhear you. Whether it's client information, project and presentation materials, or inside-trader information, ears are everywhere.

About Marjorie Brody
Article copyright 2000 Marjorie Brody and Brody Communications Ltd. Marjorie Brody, MA, CSP, CMC, is an internationally recognized expert and motivational speaker on career enhancement and corporate etiquette who connects people to potential. She has dedicated herself to the art of effective communication and to helping individuals recognize the power they have within for unlimited success. Marjorie has appeared on CNBC, Fox-TV, Oxygen Network, and been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, People, Glamour, BusinessWeek, Fortune and many other national publications. She is author of 16 books, including Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport, and the four-booklet series 21st Century Pocket Guides to Proper Business Protocol. Marjorie was selected one of "Pennsylvania's 1999 Best 50 Women in Business." She can be reached via e-mail at or visit her Web sites at or

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