CASIS and Confusing Claims of Confidentiality

Keith's note: CASIS sent out a news release today by email to the news media. At the bottom of the email was a confidentiality clause i.e. "The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message."

I was never asked in advance by CASIS or anyone else if I wished to receive confidential information from CASIS nor do I desire to receive confidential information from CASIS. So I asked CASIS about this.

The response from Patrick O'Neill (also with a confidentiality disclaimer): "It is CASIS company policy (and most other companies) that all e-mails have the disclaimer on the bottom of them in order to ensure that if the information contained in the e-mail is intended for the recipient. However, in discussions with my Manager of Contracts and Compliance (John Schubert, cc'd on this email), he has indicated that the attached press release (from this morning's CASIS ED Announcement) that went out (to approximately 450 plus on our media distribution list) this morning is already in the public domain and you can release the attachment to the e-mail at your leisure."

I asked if all CASIS email was "confidential" (that is what it seems). The response (again apparently confidential) "No. However, there are many emails that are distributed where confidentiality is necessary. The disclaimer is made to protect CASIS in instances where information that should not be made public is distributed without our consent. In this instance, when CASIS provides an attachment that reads "For Immediate Release", this is intended for public consumption and is not subject to confidentiality. Lastly, should the recipient have any questions as to whether or not the information received is something that they can make public, they can always work with CASIS staff on what is approved to disseminate publicly."

So the disclaimer (on everything that CASIS employees send out by email) proclaims everything to be confidential unless (and this is not spelled out in the disclaimer) they have already released the information (which you are supposed to know about before they send it to you). Or, in more murky circumstances, if the information was not supposed to be sent out. In other words CASIS can send things to the news media or other people and then decide after the fact that it is/was confidential and that you were not supposed to share it.

So, the smart assumption would be that any an all email from CASIS - on every topic - is confidential until and unless they specifically tell you otherwise - and that CASIS is going to bind you to a de facto confidentiality agreement before you get something - even if you did not ask to be sent anything confidential or agree to any confidentiality agreements.

In addition to being confidential, this information is for one's "personal" use - so any inquiries you might make as a reporter or representative of an organization or company cannot be used for business purposes - only personal uses - unless every email receives a waiver from CASIS in advance - and only after CASIS has already sent it to them. What if the recipient did not want the confidential information in the first place? Too late. CASIS may have already sent it to you - you have to have the presence of mind to ask.

The people at CASIS are a confused bunch. Their task is to advance the utilization of a unique facility built with tax dollars for the betterment of the taxpayer. Instead of trying to foster openness and transparency they clamp down on the exchange of information with an unenforceable and inherently contradictory confidentiality agreement that they slap on every piece of email communication they issue. Given the way that their email disclaimer is worded they can come back at you at any time, for any reason, and claim that whatever they want to claim is/was "confidential".

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 26, 2013 2:57 PM.

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