What's really "confidential" anyway?

During a recent conversation with a good friend, it occurred to me that I may well have a much, much more strict definition of "confidentiality" than others do. Either that or friend has a more loose definition. Either way, we laid it out and found our positions to be fairly opposite! Made me wonder about how others approach the topic of keeping the secrets of others.

Some context for you: I'd asked a question that I suddenly realized might indicate I was asking her to share something she might not be at liberty to share. I'd asked if she had the inside scoop on something, so followed up by saying, "Unless you were told in confidence, that is..."

Friend: Well, I'd tell you anyway!
Me: Um, no you wouldn't. Not if you'd been asked not to!
Friend: To you? Of course I would! It wouldn't matter. What could it hurt?
Me: Nothing, I'm sure, especially since so often we're given the same "scoop" at different times. But still, if it was told to you in confidence, I certainly wouldn't expect you'd tell me.
Friend: (Tone verging on incredulous) Does that mean you're keeping secrets from me?!
Me: Anything that's ever been told to me in confidence? I keep all that to myself.
Friend: Really?!
Me: Um, yea. Hence, "This is between you and me." Or, "Please keep this in confidence."
Friend: I feel like such a bad person.
Me: You're not a bad person! You just have, um, a slightly different, er, maybe moral compass than I do. Maybe I'm a prude.
Friend: Am I a bad person?
Me: No, you're not a bad person!
Friend: I have to give this some thought. (pause) So you never tell anything you've been asked to keep to yourself?
Me: Well, depends! I mean, if I'm talking to Cindi (lives in Atlanta,) and she's telling me something about another person who's on her tennis team and I know it's generally confidential information, I might one day bring it up to one of my local friends, if the conversation warranted. I mean, that's never going to hurt anybody...I don't actually even know those people. But otherwise, no! If someone tells me something and asks I keep it under my hat? Yup, still under my hat.

Which actually leads to some pretty interesting private conversations with myself. I've thought about it on occasions... when it's okay to "tell" and when it's not, and I've come to the conclusion (me, right by myself, thinking about things I'm not "allowed" to tell another soul, so I can't very well discuss it openly, what with the likelihood that if you bring up something purportedly hypothetical, it's bound to pique curiosity,) that some of these secrets can be pretty hard to keep to myself. Not because I'm dying to blab someone's private information. No, not that. It's more that sometimes the information's just kind of interesting! I like knowing interesting people and discussing interesting topics, and sometimes I'm reminded of this or that confidence, and then I have to hold my tongue rather than even "go there" in conversation, because of my promise. I have to admit there's something gratifying about knowing this or that tidbit, but not only is there the responsibility of keeping your word to the person you gave it to, you generally also can't even let on to other people that you have the secret! I mean, if you go dropping hints that you have a scoop or know this juicy tidbit...well, that just opens up all kinds of cans of worms you don't want to touch. Then you're compromising yourself. Makes people want to pry. Makes 'em think maybe if they push hard enough they can get it out of you. Makes your willingness to keep someone else's secret, well, somehow open to negotiation.

Which it's not.

But that's just me. And if you do tell? You're not a bad person. I just hope you're not gonna' tell MY stuff to somebody else! 'Cause that wouldn't be cool at all.

But I'm fairly confident friend doesn't mean she's willing to tell all confidential information, willy nilly. Yea, pretty sure she means she has a kind of litmus test. That goes something like this: "Some chick at work down the hall? Yea, she tells me something...maybe I'll keep it to myself. But I MIGHT tell a trusted friend. Trusted friend tells me something in confidence? Might tell my sister, but Certainly nobody else. And maybe not sister, but sisters are different. Right?" And for the most part, they are, too. Sisters. Sisters are almost like telling husbands. Which I have mixed feelings about. Sometimes you can tell your husband. Sometimes you can't. But I don't have one of those, so it's a moot point. In my case. But I realize it factors in sometimes...

Anyway, what about you? What's your rule about Keeping A Secret? Loose? Strict? Inquiring minds...they're just dying to know!