Skip to content
AtlanticBT Monogram
Article

NDAs: The Secrets That Make Friends and Why You Need Them

Paper

Earlier this summer, I remember sitting in a meeting with a potential client. They asked about solutions we provided for other companies. Immediately, our team lead jumped in to answer. He referred to some clients by name, but used generic descriptions for others. For example: one client bore the name “a major health insurance provider.”

Though this seemed to confuse a few in the room, the team lead knew exactly what he was doing. He knew our nondisclosure agreement (NDA) limited how much detail we could share. It even restricted how we publicly referred to some clients. That’s when I realized a crucial truth. It is important to know the basics of your company’s NDAs.

What are NDAs, and why do they matter?

NDAs are legally-binding agreements between a client and the company they have hired. It keeps secret information about the client, that the client shared, as a part of doing business. They are often used by companies to protect proprietary or sensitive information. It may also come into play to protect an organization’s brand or trademark. In addition, NDAs can exist between individuals. For example, an NDA may exist between a contract programmer and a company. This would protect information the contractor learns about the company’s inner workings.

Regardless of whether an NDA is between companies or individuals, all parties involved should be aware of the terms. Here are the questions I ask to protect my team when their work involves NDAs:

What information is confidential?

  • Is there private information that cannot come up in discussions? This might include financials, pending patents, new branding, or a patient diagnosis or test results. Even the company name can find protection under an NDA.

What information can you share?

  • Protected information in an NDA doesn’t mean that everything is a secret. There may be other parts of the project that would be appropriate to share with the public. For example, a company may be able to post a client logo on their website. But, they cannot expose specifics about what they did for the client.

Who are the parties involved?

  • Once everyone knows an agreement exists, they need to know all of the parties required to keep the secrets. This is pretty easy when there are just a few individuals involved. However, if the agreement is with a company, anyone in that company who is allowed to receive or use the sensitive information should also know about the agreement and be expected to adhere to it.

Where is the agreement?

  • The NDA should be available to those who are bound by it in case they need to review or reference it. This can be located in your company’s wiki, for example.

When do the restrictions apply?

  • Coverage of an NDA can extend beyond the relationship between the parties involved. It’s important to know how long the sensitive information must remain secret as a part of the agreement. In some cases, it may be several years after the business relationship has ended. In other cases, it may be required that the information be kept a secret forever.

Why is it important to keep the agreement?

  • Breaching or violating an NDA can damage the client/contractor relationship. This unethical behavior can also result in penalty or legal action, so it’s important to adhere to the terms.

You Need a Strategy for Handling NDAs

No matter how familiar your team is with NDAs, you want to have a plan for telling them about new agreements and potential issues. This can be as simple as saying “we have an NDA in place for this project, so please do not mention our relationship with this client publicly.” It’s important to do this as soon as an NDA is in place. Oftentimes it’s best to treat nondisclosure as the norm for all projects until you hear otherwise.

If members of your team need to sign an NDA to work on a project, make a plan for that too. For an individual, the terms can usually be provided in a form to be signed. For a team, the terms agreed to by the company could be conveyed in a simple meeting at project kick-off. Regardless of whether an NDA is between individuals or organizations, providing everyone with basic information about it will give them a better chance of adhering to it.

Compliance, in any industry, is something we value here at ABT. The rules and regulations can be difficult to navigate. If you’re in need of someone to help you find the balance between what you want to happen, what should happen, and what needs to happen, with regards to your website, we can help break it down for you.

capabilities covered

The Atlantic BT Manifesto

The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Complex Web Project

Insights

Atlantic BT's Insights

We’re sharing the latest concepts in tech, design, and software development. Learn more about our findings.

Questions & Answers

What is the best web development framework?
Many people commonly ask “what is a framework in web development?” Web development frameworks can easily be confused with web development tools, languages, or parts of the web development stack (like PHP, Ruby, or Javascript).
Learn More
What is the best programming language for web development?
If there was one “best” programming language, then everything else would be obsolete. The reality is that there are so many different programming languages because there is no “best” language for any situation.
Learn More
How much does web development cost?
Web development can vary from a few hundred to millions of dollars depending on what is needed. You may simply need some changes to something that already exists, or you'd like to build a large or complex application.
Learn More
What is front end vs. back end development?
As web development evolved, it separated into logical specialization: front end web development and back end development. While back end development involves the server-side development, front end is the final rendering.
Learn More
What is full stack web development?
Full stack web development as a term evolved due to the separation of roles between front end and back end developers. A “full stack” developer is a developer that can work in both front end and back end technologies.
Learn More
Can I migrate from my custom application to a SaaS offering?
This can’t be definitively answered in a short Q&A but it’s absolutely possible with the right migration plan.
Learn More
What language should I use to write my custom web application?
We recommend sticking to .NET, Javascript, PHP, Python, and Go. These languages have strong support communities and widely-used libraries.
Learn More