Confidentiality

What Does Confidentiality Mean?

Confidentiality, in the context of computer systems, allows authorized users to access sensitive and protected data. Specific mechanisms ensure confidentiality and safeguard data from harmful intruders.

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Techopedia Explains Confidentiality

Confidentiality is one of the five pillars of Information Assurance (IA). The other four are authentication, availability, integrity and nonrepudiation.

Sensitive information or data should be disclosed to authorized users only. In IA, confidentiality is enforced in a classification system. For example, a U.S. government or military worker must obtain a certain clearance level, depending on a position’s data requirements, such as, classified, secret or top secret. Those with secret clearances cannot access top secret information.

Best practices used to ensure confidentiality are as follows:

  • An authentication process, which ensures that authorized users are assigned confidential user identification and passwords. Another type of authentication is biometrics.
  • Role-based security methods may be employed to ensure user or viewer authorization. For example, data access levels may be assigned to specified department staff.
  • Access controls ensure that user actions remain within their roles. For example, if a user is authorized to read but not write data, defined system controls may be integrated.
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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.