Freelance Tips: Confidentiality and Proofreading

Freelance Tips: Confidentiality and Proofreading

  • Jun 04, 2020
  • 10 min read

Working as a freelance proofreader, you may sometimes encounter issues related to confidentiality. But it should be simple to avoid problems with privacy and confidentiality if you follow a few simple guidelines. Check out our advice below to find out more.

Proofreading and Confidentiality

By its nature, proofreading means that clients will be sharing documents with you, as well as other potentially private information (e.g., payment and contact details).

As a result, you will need to make sure you maintain client privacy wherever possible.

Legally, this means complying with privacy laws in the region in which you are operating (e.g., in Europe, you need to follow applicable GDPR guidelines). But confidentiality is also important for building trust with clients, and you will struggle to find work if you have a reputation for poor information security or leaking private details about the documents you work on.

How, then, can you ensure confidentiality when working as a proofreader?

How to Ensure Clients Have Confidence in Your Confidentiality

Ultimately, this will depend on who you are working for and your situation. But there are some general guidelines any freelance proofreader should follow.

When it comes to documents clients have sent you, you should:

  • Not share or distribute documents or the information therein with any third parties without express permission from the client
  • Take precautions to store all electronic files from clients securely
  • Not keep copies of clients’ documents longer than necessary

Meanwhile, with personal or other private client information, such as names, contact details, or even payment information, you should:

  • Only collect information you need and store it securely
  • Not share information with third parties without express permission from the client
  • Only store information for as long as you’re legally required (e.g., for tax purposes)
  • Make sure clients can find out what information you collect and how you store it (you can even add a privacy policy to your website if you have one)
  • Provide a way for clients to request changes to or removal of personal data

As noted above, though, the rules for how to handle personal data vary by region. As such, you should always check you know the laws that apply to your work. And, where necessary, you may want to ask a legal expert for advice on how to maintain compliance.

Do I Need to Use an NDA?

A non-disclosure agreement (or “NDA”) is a way of ensuring confidentiality in business, including for freelance proofreaders. Many proofreading agencies – such as our partner company, Proofed – require freelancers to sign an NDA to work on documents.

As an individual freelancer, a clear privacy policy should suffice for most clients, so you do not necessarily need to sign an NDA every time you work with a new person or business.

However, some clients may ask you to sign an NDA to work on documents containing sensitive or valuable information. And you may want to note on your website or LinkedIn profile that you are happy to sign an NDA if required to offer extra reassurance to prospective clients.

Confidentiality within Documents

As well as following best practices in your own work as a freelancer, you may sometimes encounter issues related to confidentiality within a document you are proofreading.

For instance, you may find a medical report where participant information has not been fully anonymized. In cases like these, the author is responsible for complying with the relevant guidelines. As such, you are not legally liable for any issues that later arise.

However, if you do see something that could be a breach of confidentiality in a document, you may want to let your client know. Don’t accuse them of anything! You are not the privacy police, after all! But do leave a sensitively worded comment explaining the potential problem and prompting them to address it when they make any final changes.

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