What is this about?

Confidentiality is the protection of personal information and data. In a research setting this concerns protecting the identity of research participants and sensitive data.

Why is this important?

Confidentiality is deemed important as it is based on a prima facie duty of a researcher to not reveal given information by a subject (1). It is thus based on an implicit or explicit agreement to safeguard confidential or secret information. The relationship between the subject (research participant, patient or other individual) and the other party (researcher, medical professional) is based on trust. Confidentiality is more specific than privacy and also given more importance. Where privacy can be breached to avoid harm, the implicit or explicit agreement between two parties concerning confidentiality are deemed more important and should not be infringed upon. The most important example is the patient-physician privilege. This special relationship between a health professional and their patients dates back to the Hippocratic oath, who as far as is known, first stated that personal information should be safeguarded.

For whom is this important?

Researchers, Health care professionals

What are the best practices?

Informed consent is an explicit agreement between the researcher and the subject, where the researcher promises not to reveal the identity or the personal data of the subject.


1. Hughes, J., Hunter, D., Sheehan, M., Wilkinson, S., & Wrigley, A. (2010). European textbook on ethics in research. Publications Office of the European Union.

Iris Lechner contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was May 29, 2019