Organizations across the world house at least some confidential information. So what's confidential?
Your state statutes might tell you. In Washington State, WUCIOA provides the most definitive list of permissible reasons to hold an executive session AND what material can be considered confidential. The 20 or so states that have adopted a version of the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (UCIOA) or Uniform Condominium Act (UCA) have statutory language comparable to what you see below. Except where your state statutes conflict, all communities should consider the principles of the UCIOA as a baseline threshold of best practices. Reinventing the wheel because your statutes lack specificity is just an excuse to eschew transparency with your owners.
It would be incorrect to assume that emails sent among board members are confidential by default due to the recipient list. Emails between board members, a community manager and other vendors are generally not privileged. That stands in contrast to a privileged email between an attorney and a client. It's also important to consider the context of an email with regard to your code of ethics. Even copying your attorney on a communication does not necessarily create attorney/client privilege.
If nothing else, decades of electronic communication have taught us that the Forward button is imminently convenient and that replies sometimes surprise us when additional recipients have been added (or BCC'd without our knowledge). Emails are unlikely to be considered confidential by default unless they include confidential information. While WA State's wiretapping laws prohibit recording conversations without the consent of other parties, there are no blanket prohibitions against sharing the contents of an email with a third party.
Most of the books and records of your community ARE NOT confidential. Many people (for example realtors and potential purchasers) receive detailed information about a community without the need to complete a real property transaction. Are those persons legally barred from sharing that information with the world? No. Certain statues prohibit the use of documents disclosed to members for commercial activity, but many forms of disclosure, including posts on social media, are not commercial in nature. Common interest communities (usually a nonprofit corporations) generally lack authority to hold their directors and members accountable for items that fall outside of their established governance. If there's something gnawing at you, check out Always Ask "WHY?"
There's no reason to be confused about what's confidential or caught off-guard when words you put in writing end up somewhere you may not have intended. Confidentiality and ethics often intertwine. Leading with consistency, empathy, honesty, integrity, reason and transparency (open meetings, access to records, satisfaction surveys, etc.) proactively builds a healthy community.
Associations located in California are subject to additional scrutiny based on the Davis Sterling Act. Read about Davis-Sterling restrictions for email between Board members and also here. You may also enjoy reviewing the limited privacy ruling for ballots from this 2021 decision from Tennessee (Rarity Bay Partners v. Rarity Bay Company No. E2021-00166-COA-R10-CV).
Additional State Requirements:
Meetings & Confidential Records
Except as provided by this subsection, a board may take action outside of a meeting, including voting by electronic or telephonic means, without prior notice to owners under Subsection (e), if each board member is given a reasonable opportunity to express the board member’s opinion to all other board members and to vote. Any action taken without notice to owners under Subsection (e) must be summarized orally, including an explanation of any known actual or estimated expenditures approved at the meeting, and documented in the minutes of the next regular or special board meeting.
The board may not, unless done in an open meeting for which prior notice was given to owners under Subsection (e), consider or vote on: