I am regularly asked by industry companies to give them feedback about a new product or service. I am occasionally asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to helping or participating in their testing. While I am generally happy to help and offer my insight, I am not going to sign a NDA to help, and I thought I would share my reasoning.
If I received a NDA, I would need to pay an attorney to review the agreement to ensure there is nothing potentially harmful to me or my business. I would need to make sure I am adequately protected and won’t get into litigation. This is an expense that I shouldn’t have to incur in order to help someone else, but it is necessary to ensure that I don’t sign something that will prevent me from writing about things I already know.
Non-disclosure agreements are always one sided. A company would like me to sign some sort of agreement to not disclose anything about what they showed me or what we discussed. This is fine, but the NDA solely benefits the company and there is absolutely no benefit to me for signing the agreement. In addition, all the risk is on me.
If someone else violates the NDA and the information becomes public, the company could think I had something to do with the revealing of private information. I have no interest to get myself involved in a situation where a company needs to investigate whether I shared something that violates a contract I signed. I don’t want to ever be put in a position where a company thinks I may have shared something I shouldn’t and end up dealing with repercussions.
Perhaps I already know some of the private information through other means, and if I mention something that is somewhat related to what I learn, perhaps the company would take issue and point to its NDA that I signed. I would never want to have to moderate myself for fear of disclosing information that could violate a contract. It would not be fun to have to think about the NDA I signed every time I write about a company or service.
Some people might say that it is unlikely a company would come after someone if they think private information is revealed. If that is the case, why do they need to insist on a non-disclosure agreement? Shouldn’t my word that I won’t tell be sufficient? Further, wouldn’t the value I add worth the risk that I divulge information that I said I wouldn’t?
I am always happy to help industry companies develop and perfect products and services I may use. If a company trusts my opinion enough to ask me to help them, they should trust that I will respect their privacy and not try to get me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that has no benefit to me.