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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups, perhaps while sharing it with other individuals. That which is kept hidden is known as the secret.

Secrecy is often controversial, depending on the content of the secret, the group or people keeping the secret, and the motivation for secrecy. Secrecy by government entities is often decried as excessive or in promotion of poor operation; excessive revelation of information on individuals can conflict with virtues of privacy and confidentiality.

Secrecy is sometimes considered of life or death importance. U.S. soldier at camp during World War II.


Secrecy in sociology and zoology

Animals, including humans (in some cases), conceal the location of their den or nest from predators. Squirrels bury nuts, hiding them, and they try to remember their locations later.

Humans attempt to consciously conceal aspects of themselves from others due to shame, or from fear of rejection, loss of acceptance, or loss of employment. On a deeper level, humans attempt to conceal aspects of their own self which they are not capable of incorporating psychologically into their conscious being. Families sometimes maintain "family secrets", obliging family members never discuss disagreeable issues concerning the family, either with those outside the family and sometimes even within the family. Many "family secrets" are maintained by using a mutually agreed-upon construct (an official family story) when speaking with outside members. Agreement to maintain the secret is often coerced through "shaming" and reference to family honor. The information may even be something as trivial as a recipe.

Keeping one's strategy secret is important in many aspects of game theory.

Secret sharing (anthropology)

In anthropology secret sharing is one way for men to establish traditional relations with other men. A commonly used Academic narrative that describes this kind of behavior is Joseph Conrad's short story "The Secret Sharer".

Government secrecy

Governments often attempt to conceal information from other governments and the public. These state secrets can include weapon designs, military plans, diplomatic negotiation tactics, and secrets obtained illicitly from others ("intelligence"). Most nations have some form of Official Secrets Act (the Espionage Act in the U.S.) and classify material according to the level of protection needed (hence the term "classified information"). An individual needs a security clearance for access and other protection methods, such as keeping documents in a safe, are stipulated.

Few people dispute the desirability of keeping Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information secret, but many believe government secrecy to be excessive and too often employed for political purposes. Many countries have laws that attempt to limit government secrecy, such as the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and sunshine laws. Government officials sometimes leak information they are supposed to keep secret. (For a recent (2005) example, see Plame affair.)

Secrecy in elections is a growing issue, particularly secrecy of vote counts on computerized vote counting machines. While voting, citizens are acting in a unique sovereign or "owner" capacity (instead of being a subject of the laws, as is true outside of elections) in selecting their government servants. It is argued that secrecy is impermissible as against the public in the area of elections where the government gets all of its power and taxing authority. In any event, permissible secrecy varies significantly with the context involved.

Corporate security

Organizations, ranging from multi-national for profit corporations to nonprofit charities, keep secrets for competitive advantage, to meet legal requirements, or, in some cases, to conceal nefarious behavior. New products under development, unique manufacturing techniques, or simply lists of customers are types of information protected by trade secret laws. The patent system encourages inventors to publish information in exchange for a limited time monopoly on its use, though patent applications are initially secret. Secret societies use secrecy as a way to attract members by creating a sense of importance.

Other laws require organizations to keep certain information secret, such as medical records (HIPAA in the U.S.), or financial reports that are under preparation (to limit insider trading). Europe has particularly strict laws about database privacy.

In many countries, neoliberal reforms of government have included expanding the outsourcing of government tasks and functions to private businesses with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in government administration. However, among the criticisms of these reforms is the claim that the pervasive use of "Commercial-in-confidence" (or secrecy) clauses in contracts between government and private providers further limits public accountability of governments and prevents proper public scrutiny of the performance and probity of the private companies. Concerns have been raised that 'commercial-in-confidence' is open to abuse because it can be deliberately used to hide corporate or government maladministration and even corruption. A string of publicly scandalous revelations about poor, wasteful or corrupt management of government-funded private contracts left unchecked for lengthy periods, often in prison management[1], has added credence to the views of skeptics about the prudency of the neoliberal reforms themselves.

Technology secrecy

Preservation of secrets is one of the goals of information security. Techniques used include physical security and cryptography. The latter depends on the secrecy of cryptographic keys. Secrecy is central to organized crime. Many believe that security technology can be more effective if it itself is not kept secret.

Information hiding is a design principle in much software engineering. It is considered easier to verify software reliability if one can be sure that different parts of the program only have access to certain information.

Military secrecy

A military secret is secret information that is purposely not made available to the general public and hence to any enemy, by the military in order to gain an advantage or to not reveal a weakness, avoid embarrassment or to help in propaganda efforts.

Most military secrets are military in nature, such as the strengths and weaknesses of weapons systems, tactics, training methods, number and location of specific weapons and plans.

Some involve information in broader areas, such as secure communications, cryptography, intelligence operations and cooperation with third-parties.

Views on secrecy

Excessive secrecy is often cited as a source of much human conflict. One may have to lie in order to hold a secret, which might lead to psychological repercussions. The alternative, declining to answer when asked something, may suggest the answer and may therefore not always be suitable for keeping a secret. Also, the other may insist that one answer the question. Nearly 2500 years ago, Sophocles wrote, "Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all." And Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, once said "Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth".

See also


  1. ^ need ref

The Federal Information Manual. P. Stephen Gidiere III. American Bar Association (2006)[1].

"the sunny place for shady people". [2]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Secrets article)

From Wikiquote

A secret is information that is hidden from certain persons or groups, possibly shared with other groups.




  • Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.
  • Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.
    • Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha

See also

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SECRET (Lat. secretum, hidden, concealed), that which is concealed from general knowledge. In special senses the word is applied to (a) a prayer in the Roman and other liturgies, said during mass by the priest in so low a voice that it does not reach the congregation, and (b) a covering or skull-cap made of steel fitting close to the head.

In law, the question of secrecy is an important one. Generally, English law does not require a solicitor or barrister to disclose secrets entrusted to them by a client, and the same probably holds good in the case of medical men. In the case of ministers of religion, it has never been definitely settled how far they can be compelled to disclose in evidence what has been confided in the secrecy of the confessional. But according to the 113th Canon, a priest of the Church of England would commit an ecclesiastical offence in revealing a secret disclosed to him in confession "except it be such as by the laws of this realm his own life may be called into question for concealing the same." As to what are called "trade secrets," it had been decided (Merryweather v. Moore, 1892, 2 Ch. 518) that it is a breach of contract to reveal trade secrets acquired during service.

Official Secrets

By the Official Secrets Act 1889 it was made a misdemeanour for an official to communicate any information or documents concerning the military or naval affairs of Her Majesty, to any person to whom it ought not to be communicated. If the information be communicated to a foreign state it is a felony. In Germany the betrayal of military secrets is punishable under an imperial law of 1893.

Secret Service

In practically every civilized country, there is always a department of the government charged with the duty of espionage, either diplomatic or domestic. Its officials work in secret, and certain sums of money are placed at the disposal of the head of the department, and expended as he may think fit, without having to render any specific account of them. Various departments of governments have also their own departmental secret service, for the better guarding against frauds, such as in the United States, the Treasury Department and the Post Office.

The various European codes generally have dealt with breach of secrecy, e.g. s. 300 of the German Penal Code imposes a fine up to 1500 marks and imprisonment up to three months on doctors, attorneys and other professional persons who reveal a secret entrusted to them in their professional capacity. For this offence also the French code, art. 378, imposes imprisonment of from one to six months and a fine of from ioo to 500 francs.

See Brouardel, Le Secret medical (Paris, 1893); Hallays, Le Secret professionnel (Paris, 1890).

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Simple English

A secret is a piece of information that one person or a group of people know, and do not want others (either everyone, or certain people) to know.

There are many reasons for keeping secrets. Some secrets are good (ones that should be kept secret like respect of citizen's privacy), others are bad (ones that ought not to be kept secret). Some things will only be kept secret until a certain time. Other things may be kept secret forever.

Sometimes secrets are violated such as a citizen's privacy by groups or individuals like the National Security Agency.

Sometimes things might be kept secret from someone because it is believed that it would upset them to know.

Some things need to be kept secret for security reasons. If a person has a bank account they must keep their PIN number secret. No one else should know it.

In businesses a lot of information is kept secret. This is usually called confidential. Things that are talked about at meetings are sometimes confidential. People who were at the meeting should not go telling everyone else what was discussed.

Another kind of secret would be cryptographic secrets, which is short codes that unlock other secrets. That is, secrets protecting secrets and so forth.

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