Even if you hate sports, you have surely heard about the NBA banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for his racist comments. The comments came to light after a recording of a telephone conversation between Sterling and his “girlfriend” was made public. We can all agree that Sterling’s comments were reprehensible. But for our purposes, what does this episode teach us about protecting trade secrets?
We’ve reached a point where virtually every person is walking around with technology in their pocket that allows them to record, photograph, videotape, or otherwise document everything around them at any given moment. The widespread use of iPhones and other smartphones has profound implications on many aspects of society. For Sterling, this led to the disclosure of what he thought was a private conversation. For companies trying to protect their proprietary information, they need to be even more vigilant about keeping this information secret.
As I’ve discussed before, only share proprietary information with those who need it to do their jobs. Don’t allow visitors access to areas where proprietary information is stored. Use IT solutions to restrict and password-protect critical proprietary information. And make sure (through training and contractual obligations) that employees know not to discuss this information with any third parties. After all, you never know when the other person may be recording the conversation.