“Corporate intelligence is not corporate espionage because 95 percent of the information a company needs to make strategic decisions is available and accessible to the public.”
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I agree on some points. Information about competitors can be found in annual reports, sales brochures, journals, and various sales exhibitions and trade shows. We simply call this business or corporate intelligence. Those who conduct espionage belong to corporations run by the former CIA, FBI, or military intelligence services (Pennington, 2002).
The statement above makes a distinction between “intelligence” and “espionage” (Pennington, 2002, p. 38). These two terms are originally from military parlance. Intelligence gathering and espionage are both information gathering, but business intelligence is legitimate when it does not include illegal acts. Espionage refers to “spying” and activities include collecting information by entering one’s domicile, accessing a company’s intranet, or collecting trade secrets through hacking company websites. In military parlance, it refers to clandestine activities, while in business it is about covert activities to acquire information illegally. Corporate intelligence is legitimate information gathering to enhance the company’s strategic advantage, which is a feature of healthy competition.
The information age has put a lot of significance to information about consumer behavior and competitors. More information means greater strategic advantage. Firms conduct corporate intelligence, and that is normal. Those desperate to possess other firms’ product designs and trade secrets bribe or hire “spies” to get the information they needed.
Pennington, M. (2002). Corporate intelligence gathering and espionage. Strategy & Leadership, 30(5), 38-39. Web.