Privacy: A Lesson from the Tech Pioneers

20 July 2015

Considering the pioneers of the tech industry and social media have built their careers on the sharing of user data and personal information, they are fiercely guarded about their own private lives and their personal digital footprint.

While many of us will now intrinsically use social media platforms and apps to share personal updates and photos, those at the helm of those same companies are conversely notoriously discreet. Many of them are known to take significant precautions to keep their private lives under-wraps and will be swift to engage all staff including the one-off handyman with strict and comprehensive non-disclosure agreements.

It was recently reported that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has been known to buy properties in the close vicinity of his own to avoid onlookers, and to engage any third party in an NDA for similar reasons of privacy. Builders on the site of his San Francisco home allegedly knew to turn away reporters and told them they were all subject to confidentiality agreements. The journalists who had been trying to obtain details of the renovation project did not skirt over the irony of Facebook’s success being attributed to billions of users waiving their own privacy to share their lives online.

We have seen an increasing trend for these NDAs to be requested by many clients who are not necessarily in the public eye, both for permanent domestic employees and for ad hoc suppliers – freelance cleaners, occasional babysitters, gardeners and electricians. Anyone who may be present on their property may be subject to them, with good reason considering the propensity for strangers to snap away on their smart phones and upload photos of anything from their children to the design of the guest toilet onto their social media accounts.

With a home renovation project, we always advise that measures are taken to protect floor plans, interior photographs and renderings from becoming public. This would cover confidentiality but also the ownership of the copyright in the images created to make it easier to challenge any leaks. We normally work alongside estate agents, architects and the project managers to cover all bases and keep the details protected. We may also suggest an initial digital security review to ensure that there are no bugs or other surveillance equipment already in place that is feeding footage to a random server elsewhere.

Our contacts in the property industry, both here and in the US both agree that on larger luxury projects, confidentiality agreements are becoming increasingly common as part of the project management. Those agreements have an increasing emphasis on the use of social media as the most common source of a leak. It is generally accepted that once things are out there online, they are harder (albeit not impossible) to contain, so as with most things preventative measures are always key.

The most successful techies clearly value their privacy above all else, despite how they made their money with social media sharing in the first place. As with most things that stem from Silicon Valley, it’s usually worth following their lead.

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About the Author

Joelle Rich


Joelle specialises in privacy, defamation, private family law and intellectual property rights, with clients ranging from high profile and high-net worth individuals to companies in the financial sphere.

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