Gathering Personal Information Discreetly

Gathering personal information discreetly can be a challenge. While it’s important to gather information about someone, doing so without violating their privacy is essential.


If you physically enter a private area or gather information that could identify someone (like their name, address, date of birth or mother’s maiden name), you can be liable for intrusion upon seclusion.

Be Mindful of What You Share

In an era where many people feel they are at the mercy of not only pressure groups but also large organizations that view them as nothing more than lifeless data floating around in electronic chambers, it’s important to be mindful of what you share with others. If you’re gathering information discreetly and you sense that someone is trying to crowbar information from you that you want to keep private, try deflecting the conversation to another topic altogether.

Don’t Share Information You Don’t Want to Share

If you aren’t sure you want to share something, don’t force yourself to. For example, if a co-worker asks you to pass along office gossip about her, don’t go out of your way to divulge confidential information to support her—especially if she says she doesn’t appreciate it. You might be able to deflect her request by asking her about herself or by changing the subject.

There are situations in which you have no choice but to disclose personal information, such as a sexually transmitted infection or an active emergency. However, it’s always best to share only what you WANT to share at the RIGHT time and in the RIGHT place. It’s also a good idea to “inoculate” people with whom you plan to share by slowly introducing the information over time, so that when you do divulge it, it’s not as much of a surprise.

Increasingly, we are at the mercy of large organizations that view us as nothing more than lifeless data floating in electronic chambers, waiting to be captured, examined, collated, and sold. In some cases, such as with social media or direct marketers, this is completely up to us. In other cases, such as with credit bureaus or the government, it’s not.

Don’t Share Information You Don’t Need to Share

In some cases, it may be best to not disclose personal information even if you feel that doing so is the right thing. For example, if you have a co-worker with whom you work closely who is in the middle of a tumultuous marriage and you hear a rumor that they are considering divorce, it might be best to refrain from asking them about it in the workplace so as not to feed office gossip, reports HumanResourceManagement.

Additionally, sharing a lot of personal information that can easily be guessed by others puts you at risk of being targeted for identity theft. “Hackers look for identifying information such as year of graduation, cities in which you’ve lived and the make and model of your cars,” Turow says. “Social media photos also show side information like dates and locations.”

Increasingly, we are at the whim of organizations – direct marketers, credit bureaus, government agencies and even the internet itself – that view us as nothing more than lifeless data to be collected, examined and sold,” writes Turow.