Consider the following case:
Someone speaks loshon hora before a crowd of ten people, one of them being yourself. Later, you overhear two of the listeners relating the information. Following the rule of “api tlasa” (which we discussed earlier), it would seem that you should certainly be allowed to mention this information in everyday conversation.
Not necessarily, says the Chofetz Chaim.
If the speaker specifically told his listeners that he does not want the information to go any further, then no one is permitted to repeat it. This applies even if two or more of the listeners have already ignored the instruction.
While the Chofetz Chaim is discussing a case involving loshon hora, it is important to note that any information revealed in confidence should not be repeated.
The reason for this is obvious. Revealing a secret can have the same negative effects as common loshon hora. If a person tells you, “I have a great business idea,” and you pass this information on to others, someone may come along and make use of the idea. So harmful are such leaks that large corporations spend heavily on security to protect their private information.
Another potential fallout of divulging secrets is the risk of creating bad feelings. For example:
Your sister informs you confidentially that she is planning to buy a house. A few days later, you casually mention this to your brother. What you did not anticipate is that your brother feels insulted because your sister did not tell him this piece of news. Just as with rechilus (gossip), information which is related in confidence can cause animosity when passed on to another party.
Generally speaking, when someone is told personal information, he should not repeat it even if the speaker did not mention that it is confidential. This is the only sure way to avoid potential damage. What is seemingly a harmless piece of information may be explosive when repeated to someone else. For example:
If your sister were to tell you that she purchased an expensive painting, this would seem to be a harmless piece of information. However, when such information is repeated to your sister’s close friend, it might have a very negative effect, because your sister has recently refused her friend a loan on the grounds that she has no money to spare.
However, personal information may be repeated when it was said in front of three people (and the speaker did not request that it be held in confidence). By speaking in the presence of three, the speaker has shown that he does not mind if the information goes further.
From these laws we learn that seemingly innocuous statements have the power to cause tremendous harm. Through shmiras haloshon our words will not bring about unintended hurt or animosity among our family and friends.