Secrecy (also called clandestinity or furtiveness) is the practice of
hiding information from certain individuals or groups who do not have
the "need to know", 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 or nature of
the secret, the group or people keeping the secret, and the motivation
Secrecy by government entities is often decried as
excessive or in promotion of poor operation[by whom?]; excessive
revelation of information on individuals can conflict with virtues of
privacy and confidentiality. It is often contrasted with social social
Secrecy in sociology and zoology
Secret sharing (anthropology)
4 Corporate secrecy
5 Technology secrecy
6 Military secrecy
7 Views on secrecy
8 Image gallery
9 See also
11 External links
Secrecy can exist in a number of different ways, such as through
obfuscation, where secrets are hidden in plain sight behind for
example complex idiosyncratic language or steganography; encoding or
encryption where mathematical and technical strategies are used to
hide messages; and true secrecy, where restrictions are put upon those
who take part of the message, such as through government security
Another classification proposed by Claude Shannon in 1948 reads there
are three systems of secrecy within communication:
concealment systems, including such methods as invisible ink,
concealing a message in an innocent text, or in a fake covering
cryptogram, or other methods in which the existence of the message is
concealed from the enemy
privacy systems, for example speech inversion, in which special
equipment is required to recover the message
“true” secrecy systems where the meaning of the message is
concealed by cipher , code, etc., although its existence is not
hidden, and the enemy is assumed to have any special equipment
necessary to intercept and record the transmitted signal
Secrecy in sociology and zoology
Main article: Sociological aspects of secrecy
Animals 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 violence, rejection, harassment,
loss of acceptance, or loss of employment. Humans may also 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 to
discuss disagreeable issues concerning the family with outsiders or
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.[citation
Secrets are sometimes kept to provide the pleasure of surprise. This
includes keeping secret about a surprise party, not telling spoilers
of a story, and avoiding exposure of a magic trick.
Keeping one's strategy secret is important in many aspects of game
Secret sharing (anthropology)
In anthropology secret sharing is one way for men and women to
establish traditional relations with other men and women.[citation
needed] A commonly used narrative that describes this
kind of behavior is Joseph Conrad's short story "The Secret
A burn bag and security classification stickers on a laptop computer,
between U.S. President
Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden
during updates on Operation Geronimo, a mission against Osama bin
Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.
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
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.[citation
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
Shell companies may be used to launder money from criminal activity,
to finance terrorism, or to evade taxes. Registers of beneficial
ownership aim at fighting corporate secrecy in that sense.[citation
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.
See also: Full disclosure (computer security), Kerckhoffs' principle,
and security through obscurity
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. Many believe that
security technology can be more effective if it itself is not kept
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 can only access (and
therefore depend on) a known limited amount of information.[citation
Military intelligence and Born secret
A military secret is information about martial affairs that is
purposely not made available to the general public and hence to any
enemy, in order to gain an advantage or to not reveal a weakness, to
avoid embarrassment, or to help in propaganda efforts. Most military
secrets are tactical in nature, such as the strengths and weaknesses
of weapon systems, tactics, training methods, plans, and the number
and location of specific weapons. Some secrets involve information in
broader areas, such as secure communications, cryptography,
intelligence operations, and cooperation with third parties.[citation
Views on secrecy
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Secrets
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.[original research?] 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.[improper
synthesis?] 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". The Bible addresses
this: "Be sure your sin will find you out." Numbers 32:23[citation
Secrecy in art
Das Geheimnis (The Secret), Felix Nussbaum
A Stolen Interview, Edmund Blair Leighton
First secret confidence to Venus, François Jouffroy
A Secret from on High, Hippolyte Moulin
The Secret, Moritz Stifter
Don't ask, don't tell
Freedom of information legislation
Need to know
Somebody Else's Problem
State Secrets Privilege
^ Shannon, C.E. (1946–1948). "Communication Theory of Secrecy
Systems" (PDF): 1.
^ Lightfoot, Geoffrey, and Tomasz Piotr Wisniewski. "Information
asymmetry and power in a surveillance society." Information and
Organization 24.4 (2014): 214-235.
Arnold, Jason Ross (2014).
Secrecy in the Sunshine Era: The Promise
and Failures of U.S. Open
Government Laws. University Press of Kansas.
ISBN 978-0700619924. *
Birchall, Clare (March 2011). ""There's been too much secrecy in this
City": The false choice between secrecy and transparency in US
politics". Cultural Politics. Duke University Press. 7 (1): 133–156.
Birchall, Clare (December 2011). "Introduction to secrecy and
transparency: the politics of opacity and openness". Theory, Culture
& Society. Sage. 28 (7–8): 7–25.
Birchall, Clare (December 2011). "Transparency interrupted: secrets of
the left". Theory, Culture & Society. Sage. 28 (7–8): 60–84.
Bok, Sissela (1989). Secrets: on the ethics of concealment and
revelation. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 9780679724735.
Canal, Vicente Aceituno (April 2006). "How secret is a secret?". ISSA
Gidiere III, P. Stephen (2006). The federal information manual: how
the government collects, manages, and discloses information under FOIA
and other statutes. Chicago: American Bar Association.
Maret (ed.), Susan (2014).
Government secrecy, Research in Social
Problems and Public Policy, vol. 19. Bingley, UK: Emerald.
ISSN 0196-1152. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Plunkett, Geoff (2014). Death by mustard gas: how military secrecy and
lost weapons can kill. Newport, New South Wales: Big Sky Publishing.
Roberts, Alasdair (2006). Blacked out: government secrecy in the
information age. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press.
Schneier, Bruce (2004). Secrets and lies: digital security in a
networked world. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley.
Secrecy Legal News and Research". JURIST.
Taylor, Henry (1991), "Sir Henry Taylor (1800-86): On secrecy", in
Gross, John J., The Oxford book of essays, Oxford England New York:
Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780192141859.
Also available as: Taylor, Henry (1836), "On secrecy", in Taylor,
Henry, The statesman, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, &
Longman, pp. 128–131, OCLC 4790233. Preview.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Secrecy.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Secrecy
Look up secret or covert in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
An Open Source Collection of Readings on Secrecy
Secrecy News from the Federation of American Scientists