Professionals come into confidential information as a part of their daily routine. In fact, for many professionals, all the information they handle is confidential information. There are three reasons for professionals to use high security paper shredders to protect confidential information:
- To comply with law
- To satisfy ethical duties
- To reduce exposure to lawsuits
Here are four professions that should invest in high security shredders:
Lawyers have an ethical duty to keep all client communications confidential. This is to assure clients that they can have full and complete discussions with their lawyers without fear of any disclosures becoming public. This aids the client in receiving the best possible representation and allows the lawyer to provide the best possible representation. The only exceptions to this duty of confidentiality are to:
- Comply with client instructions after the client waives confidentiality
- Prevent death or substantial bodily harm
- Prevent a crime or fraud that the client has committed, or will commit, misusing advice received from the lawyer
- Defend the lawyer in a dispute with the client or in a criminal proceeding against the lawyer arising out of actions taken by the client
- Obtain legal advice about whether the lawyer has violated any ethical rules
- Comply with a law or court order
- Determine whether there would be a conflict of interests in representing the client
Other than these exceptions, lawyers are duty-bound to maintain confidentiality. As such, lawyers need a document destruction policy. Merely throwing documents away would be insufficient and could be found to violate the ethical rules. Lawyers are privy to information that can reveal a client's business or legal strategies, harm the client's interests, or embarrass the client, damaging his or her reputation. By using secure paper shredders, lawyers can be assured that confidential documents are destroyed completely so that client communications are not disclosed.
Doctors have a duty of confidentiality to patients. The purpose of the duty is to facilitate open communication between the doctor and patient so the doctor can provide the best possible medical advice.
The only exceptions to doctor-patient confidentiality are disclosures to:
- Consult other health care personnel to provide care or conduct health care operations
- Comply with law
- Prevent a patient from harming himself/herself or others
In addition to their ethical rules, doctors and other healthcare providers are governed by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA). HIPAA requires healthcare providers, including health insurers, to take reasonable measures to prevent the disclosure of the patient's identity, medical history, or payment history. According to the U.S. government, this means that documents containing patient information should be rendered unreadable or indecipherable so they cannot be reconstructed before being disposed of. In other words, high security shredders are almost necessary for doctors to comply with HIPAA.
Therapists and Counselors
Therapists and counselors are bound by an ethical duty to maintain the confidentiality of their communications with clients except when:
There is some debate as to whether therapists and counselors are bound by HIPAA. Even if they are not, high security shredders may be necessary to prevent the disclosure of sensitive and potentially damaging information. Inadvertent disclosure may not only violate ethical standards, but it could expose providers to lawsuits by clients harmed by the disclosure.
Although ethical rules require accountants to maintain the confidentiality of client communications, there is no broad legal privilege covering the accountant-client relationship. Thus, even though accountants have access to highly confidential financial information, accountants can be compelled to disclose that information.
This makes the use of high security shredders critical to accounting practices. The failure to shred documents once they are no longer needed means that they can be obtained in lawsuits and tax audits. Even if those documents show no wrongdoing, their publication could be damaging or embarrassing in other ways or could lead to identity theft. Nearly 25% of victims accidentally discover their identity was stolen and no accountant wants to be responsible for the theft of a client's financial identity.
The professional relationship is one of trust. Professionals are entrusted with sensitive information and, to live up to that trust, must handle the confidential information with the utmost care.