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Confidentiality: This is NOT about you!

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Recently, a young lady, new in the industry, raised a question on a social platform questioning the practice of, or if it is acceptable for, people in our industry dropping clients’ names in public.

Surprisingly, many people who took part in the thread commented saying that they don’t find anything wrong with breaking confidentiality. Some of them even named their own old clients. Some were trying to justify it by saying they don’t work for that specific client anymore, they didn’t reveal anything personal about the client. 

They can also say that they have the client’s approval to post that picture or name the client. They say that their client is super famous and paparazzi are always getting pictures of them together so why hide it, etc. Essentially, they are good guys, and how dare we criticize people we don’t know.

These were a number of the comments from individuals who either work in the security industry as operatives or own companies and hire agents to represent them.

The Link Between Social Media and Confidentiality 

Now, we all know that confidentiality has been a hot topic that raises many debates every time it’s laid on the table. And we see the ever-increasing need to have discussions about it nowadays, more than ever, due to the internet and the influence of social media.

Merely saying that it is wrong to post a picture or name your client in public does not remotely infer that we are jealous of the clientele you have. And it is certainly not because we want to talk bad about you or because we want to look better.

The primary reason for it being discussed as wrong goes all the way back to the very basics of Risk Assessment and Dynamic Risk Assessment. Those who haven’t had the opportunity to be taught these topics in one of their EP schools should truly seek continuing education on it. And those who fail to remember their training on how it can drastically affect a client’s safety need to go back and re-study.

The Potential Risk Factors

For a moment, let’s talk about risk factors and who may be after your client. These could be: media representatives (journalists, paparazzi), private investigators, stalkers, unhappy former employees, former wives, former girlfriends, business associates, business antagonists, people he owes money to, criminal organizations, kidnappers, and the list can go endlessly on so. But for brevity’s sake, let’s say anyone who may want to harm him/her in any way, shape, or form.

That being stated, the person who is standing directly between that client and all these risk factors is you. You and anyone else who works in the security detail. Linking your name or putting an ID on the person who is standing next to that client in the picture frame is a risk in and of itself. How so? We will explain later.

What Happens on the Detail, Stays on the Detail

Now, let’s address some of the individuals who have stated that these are acceptable practices. Confidentiality is quite always associated with the less than desirable actions and events that occur during a detail. “What happens on the detail, stays on the detail” sort of thing. 

We have a tendency to become complacent with many other aspects of the more pleasant, day-to-day occurrences. We aren’t feeling that they are of any importance in the overall aspect of security. 

One could not be more mistaken.

Confidentiality is about ANYTHING that involves your client and their life, and whoever was involved or interacted with the security detail. It entails the complete protection of any/all kinds of information that someone might gain access to. It also includes information about who may want to harm him in some way, obtain something to use against him, or even harm his reputation.

Dropping the Confidentiality

How long must I maintain this confidentiality? Well, just because you worked for someone in the past doesn’t mean you can or should discuss any details about them or the fact you worked for them now. 

Having worked for someone means you now know critical information regarding their security detail. You know about estate security, what kind of vehicles are used, how many people work for them, what are the skill sets of the current agents (basically how good they are). 

What’s more, you know if they have any issues or weaknesses (divorces, custody battles, use of drugs and alcohol, illegal affairs…), etc. You also have information about where the client likes to “hang out,” where his good friends live, and his family. But most importantly, you are aware of all the security “gaps” and security protocols.

These tiny gaps?

We write about them in our reports and address them to our supervisors. Most of the time no one cares to take them into consideration because of the budget, or because they don’t want to “bother” the client’s routine or bring inconvenience to their daily life.

The complacent prefer not to change anything. That’s why most of us have walked into security details where protocols (even radio call signs) haven’t been changed for years. So, having worked for someone in the past, even if you are no longer employed there now, doesn’t make it acceptable to talk about it. YOU ARE IN POSSESSION of important information that may harm or put anyone who worked for that client in a position to be blackmailed or harmed.

How Lack of Confidentiality Affects Security Procedures

“I have the client’s approval to get a picture with him and even post it.” Let’s admit it; there is nothing more satisfying in our profession than to have a happy client who is OK with having a picture together.

Yes, you can take that picture of the two of you, but for your own personal photo album… Never to post in public. The client may be OK with it, but remember, the client hired YOU to protect THEM.

They don’t know about security procedures and risk factors, and if you ask for a picture, they may think it is safe. You, however, as the security professional, the trained and educated one, must think and breathe “security.” You alone are the one whose acts must always take into consideration the client’s and team’s safety.

Many inexperienced agents are misled to believe that since paparazzi are after their clients. Their face is already all over the media so why not post a picture? Well, the simple answer is, your face may be in those pictures, but you are just a face.

A face doesn’t give an ID to that person standing next to your client, however, posting anywhere on the internet or on any type of social media platform absolutely does. So again, you’re putting a name with the face of the person who guards that client and thus presenting possible access to the client or their lives.

And to those who say we shouldn’t criticize someone we don’t know in person, please understand that you are critiqued for everything that potentially shows your professional attitude and performance.

Perception Is Reality

“Perception is reality” is more critical than you think. And for something like this, it only takes a misspoken statement in an interview or your personal opinion on social media. You are not necessarily judged if you are a good family person or a good friend. Someone must know you personally to have an opinion on those matters.

But when it surrounds work, what you post, how you comment, and your professional behavior will be criticized and this fact spares no one.

In our line of work, we are the ones who must think and prepare for all threats and take needed measures to prevent worst-case scenarios. Depending on who your client is (or was) talking about them doesn’t necessarily cause life-threatening harm. But it can do damage in many other forms, which you as their security (past and present) must always protect them from, keeping them safe at all times.

It may also harm anyone who worked along with you. Just think for a moment… If someone is threatening your child, blackmailing you, or threatening someone you love, would you still be able to remain quiet, hold the information, and not reveal what you know about that client?

There are blackmail, extortion, and kidnappings that are never reported in the news or the authorities. Predators will go after the “weak” target that shows any weaknesses and the client is most likely a candidate.

Linking your identity to a specific client gives away someone from whom they can gain access to vital information. If it is so hard to understand why the information in our industry is so vital, then you must seek another career or take a huge pause and re-think.

The Necessity of NDAs

Most of us don’t know the companies who have the biggest clients. They most certainly don’t go by “tacticool” logos or brand names. These companies use strict NDAs, and they are critical of how you carry yourself on social media platforms. Some will even forbid you from having any significant social media presence.

NDAs are there for a good reason, mostly to protect any/all the information you will gain while working for the client. There are many colleagues who work for HNW and UHNW individuals and you will never know their names. For example, you’ll never see anyone from some of Forbes Top 100 security teams ever mention where they work or for whom they provide protection services.

Where you work, or who you have worked for doesn’t say who you are as a professional, or how proficient you are. We have seen excellent professionals working for great clients and less than deserving individuals working for them as well.

It’s NOT About You

The name of your client or his social/celebrity status is not related to the level of your success by any means. Each detail has its own unique aspects. Consider the actual threat levels, the intricate advances required, and the planning and real-time decisions that must be constantly made on the move.

It’s NOT about you… Never was, never will be. It’s all about the client and the operational professionalism you and your team provide.

Most of these confidentiality issues come from people who have done celebrity protection. Rarely, if at all, will we see it with anyone who runs corporate security details, or works for foreign dignitaries or politicians.

We all probably know a bad professional who said yes to a low-paying job. And they did so just to get that chance of getting a picture next to a celebrity.

But at the end of the day, you should measure your success by the fact you are still working as an EPO full time. It is your main income, you bring enough money home to your family, and you are keeping your client and your team happy and safe.

Why You Should Care

To those who say we shouldn’t care about their clients. We do not care about your clients, we care about our industry and about our own clients. We care because, with your posts, tags, check-ins, you are breaking every rule of OPSEC and client’s confidentiality. You become a liability and come into contradiction with your role as the protector.

At the end of the day, our clients may coincide and interact with your client. So whatever bad habits you may have now becomes a liability to me and my team.

We care because tomorrow someone may hire you to work for the same detail as us. Then, we have to work around you and fix your mistakes. We care because the new generation of protective agents will have to work with you. It is about the mission and the client, whose safety you are compromising for your own ego and publicity.

If the bad guys know how much you are willing to tell if you are being flattered or threatened, guess what? Anyone can come after you and your family. We care because you are a liability to your own cause and role.

To those who say, this is a way of marketing and they have to catch up with the new era. Please have in mind that you can still use social media, promote yourself, and network. And you can do that without the need to post and break confidentiality.

Why Educating Yourself Matters

If you don’t know how, there are many free courses available to learn from. Serious clients and companies won’t look for social media pictures to hire you. However, they may find posting on social media to be a deal-breaker when looking to hire you.

It is up to us, the trained and educated security professionals, to identify a possible risk and minimize the threat level. Name-dropping our clients or unneeded selfies won’t make it any easier, and it always adds more risks.

There are many colleagues, who think it is not a big thing naming or talking about your clients. But that becomes a liability and you yourself then become a liability as well.

Tomorrow, someone might reject your application because someone saw how quickly you talk publicly about your clients. You will find yourself passed over for another applicant who can remain quiet. And all over the simple fact that you can’t keep your ego in check. And you will always wonder why they didn’t hire someone like you who has more work experience and tactical skills.

To Sum Up

The truth is, there are many companies who do truly care about confidentiality. They not only see it as an ethical threat but as a strict part of their professional code of conduct.

Think twice before you name your clients or post that picture in public… it may very well leave you out of the loop.

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