Is Collecting Competitive Intelligence Legal?

Competitive Intelligence Versus Corporate Espionage

If you’ve heard of competitive intelligence, you may be wondering whether it’s a legal strategy for your business. This article will help you understand how the field of competitive intelligence works so that you can be assured it’s a legal and ethical strategy to help your business get its competitive edge back.

Competitive Intelligence Versus Corporate Espionage

When many people hear the phrase competitive intelligence, they conjure images of corporate spies who hack into another company’s databases to gather information. However, this image is completely wrong.

While cybercriminals certainly exist and illegally gather information, it has nothing to do with competitive intelligence. Criminal activity like hacking or wiretapping are illegal means of gathering information. They violate intellectual property laws and are unethical strategies.

Competitive Intelligence Versus Corporate Espionage

In fact, tactics like these are typically termed “corporate espionage.” Any time someone hacks or gains unauthorized access to company information, it can be considered corporate espionage. This behavior is illegal and can come with severe legal consequences.

Other tactics may not be illegal, but they are certainly unethical. For example, someone pretending to be an applicant for a position with the competition just to gather insight on key competitors is an unethical behavior. The same goes for someone pretending to be an interested customer. 

Businesses and competitive intelligence professionals acting on their behalf must always disclose their identity and be upfront about what they’re doing when in contact with competitors.

Competitive intelligence professionals should never lie, cheat, or steal to get information on the competition. They rely on original research and publicly available sources to get a fuller picture of what the competition might be planning to do and what practices are working best for them.

Illegal or unethical behavior should never be part of a competitive intelligence strategy.

How Do You Gather Competitive Intelligence?

While some information-gathering tactics are illegal or unethical, gathering competitive intelligence ethically involves strategically analyzing information that has always been available to you.

Professionals will analyze a wide range of sources to develop a better understanding of the competition. For many businesses, the market is full of potential threats or unexpected developments. No business wants to be blindsided by the competition. Competitive intelligence helps to minimize uncertainty and restore businesses’ confidence in their decisions.

Potential sources of ethical data collection include

·        social media updates

·        competitor websites

·        patent databases

·        customer surveys

·        online forums

·        original market research

·        interviews with the competition or related organizations

Competitive intelligence analysts will evaluate information from many of these sources to understand several different key elements of the competition. Elements of competitive intelligence can include

·        Marketing strategy

·        Customer opinion

·        Technological advances

·        Innovative techniques

·        New promotions or deals

·        Changes in hiring patterns

All of this insight can be gathered ethically from publicly available sources. Often, companies will briefly check up on their competitors’ social media or quickly scan their website and think they’ve gotten all the information they need.

Competitive intelligence professionals know that this isn’t enough. A thorough investigation of the competition requires frequent research and analysis. The professionals at Archintel work hard to deliver daily strategic briefings to your business as part of their comprehensive competitive intelligence strategy to help you get ahead of your competitors. 

What Does Ethical Competitive Intelligence Look Like?

If unethical data gathering is illegal corporate espionage, you might be wondering what professionals can do to maintain high ethical standards.

In fact, there are several best competitive intelligence practices to make sure professionals are conducting themselves ethically. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when gathering competitive intelligence:

Be clear about who you are and what you’re doing

It’s unethical to pretend to be someone you’re not. Businesses and professionals who act on their behalf should never stoop to tricking competitors. If you have to be dishonest to gather information, you’re doing something wrong.

If you contact a competitor directly, be upfront about who you work for and what type of information you’re asking them. Sneaking around is risky and wrong.

Ethical intelligence

Never steal information you’re not supposed to have

Gathering competitive intelligence should never require you to hack into databases or listen into phone calls. These behaviors are illegal and will jeopardize your entire organization. You don’t want to risk your reputation or break any laws to get information. Plenty of information already surrounds you. You just need to know where to look.

Any time you’re getting access to unauthorized information you’re acting illegally and unethically. Don’t put your business’s reputation on the line like that.

Use publicly available sources

Competitive intelligence professionals rely on a variety of sources to inform their recommendations. Much of their research involves looking at public databases and platforms. You’ve always had access to this information but may not know how to use it.

The professionals at Archintel are skilled researchers and know how to identify trends and important details in the data. They’re trained to transform information from a competitor’s website or from a patent database into valuable insight that can help your team make smarter decisions and set better goals for your business.

Adhere to a strict corporate ethical code

It’s always important for your employees (and anyone who works on behalf of your business) to agree to a common ethical code. Communicating a clear set of ethical guidelines will help your business create a culture of responsibility.

Corporate ethical code

Everyone connected to your business should be held to the same high ethical standards. With a coherent policy, everyone agrees to act responsibly, and you can better prevent ethical violations. 

Competitive Intelligence with Archintel

Archintel takes your business seriously. They know that nearly every industry is more competitive than it used to be, and they understand the toll that more competition can take on a business.

With the professionals at Archintel, you can be reassured that they gather information legally and ethically without the need to cut corners or risk your reputation. You can trust them to act wisely on your behalf to get you the insight you need to make it in this competitive market.

No company wants to make blind decisions. Competitive intelligence cuts down on the uncertainty in your industry and gives you the reassurance that you’re making smart decisions and using strategies that will keep you in the same league as the competition.

Get started on your comprehensive competitive intelligence strategy today with the professionals at Archintel.