RE: Does your organization mark PDF user guides as confidential?

Subject: RE: Does your organization mark PDF user guides as confidential?
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Elissa K. Miller" <emiller -at- doubleknot -dot- com>, 'TechWR-L' <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2014 19:15:26 -0400

What's that phrase we all just love to hear, in answer to a question?

.... it depends.

A document gets marked "Confidential" when it is to be distributed to persons of known allegiance, or who are under agreement that would preclude them divulging the content. It's mostly an alert that this document is not for general release, among whatever other documents they might receive that don't carry that constraint.

In my experience, the word "Confidential" emblazoned across a header, or as a watermark is normally not used alone. It comes with a front-matter page or a repeating footer (or both) that provides some context and instruction about what "Confidential" is intended to mean for the document.

A secondary reason for flagging a document might be in anticipation of later legal argument, when the document does get leaked. It's hard to deny culpability when the document you passed on to a competitor or a reporter has a prominent "Confidential" plastered all over it. "Oh, I didn't realize that one came under the agreement" just wouldn't fly in court.

I would say that if all that goes on the doc is the word "Confidential", and no boilerplate about what that means, then it's just affectation, possibly a historical holdover by staff who aren't sure why they're doing it but feel "better safe than sorry".

A naked "Confidential" (or "Restricted" or "Secret" or....) stamp is from the days and milieu when the only copies of docs were physical printouts, in folders, in cabinets with locks, usually in rooms with locks and with a procedure for signing out and tracking.

Unfortunately, overuse is dilution and attenuation, and begins to make a company look foolish, pretentious, inattentive, or various other unwelcome descriptors.

YMMV, of course.

-----Original Message-----
From: Elissa K. Miller
Sent: May-29-14 5:39 PM
To: 'TechWR-L'
Subject: Does your organization mark PDF user guides as confidential?

Is it a standard practice to mark documentation for B2B software products (nothing government or military) as confidential? We don't print anything; documentation is available to customers as PDF or within in a webhelp system. If it matters, the software is always accessed through a browser; customers have nothing to install.

It seems to me that if something is published on the web for general use by customers and can be downloaded (even if a password is required), you have no reasonable expectation of confidentiality for the materials. And if it should fall into a competitor's hands, marking it confidential certainly doesn't STOP them from anything. Marking something so freely distributed as confidential just feels like an affectation. But, I admit that I know nothing.

I have no dog in this fight but I am around people who do.



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Does your organization mark PDF user guides as confidential?: From: Elissa K. Miller

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