Exploring Ethical Competitive Intelligence: the important Dimensions of Collection

May 20, 2024

Competitive intelligence and corporate espionage have nothing in common

In recent times, there has been extensive media coverage of businesses ripping off trade secrets and other intellectual property from rivals, often using former or serving employees as conduits. Loss of such confidential data might potentially dilute (if not entirely destroy) the advantage the rival business has enjoyed in the market and enable it to stand out from the crowd so far. Such data, not intended for public dissemination, would include closely guarded formulations, production processes, software source codes, contact details of clients, and marketing strategies. Obtaining information that is known only to a limited group of people via dubious means can be tempting for many businesses. Corporate espionage is not something uncommon, but it still isn’t legit! Most important of all, ethical competitive intelligence gathering is as different from corporate espionage as day and night.  

Gathering ethical competitive intelligence, the subject matter of our discussion, is a perfectly legitimate activity, and experts in this discipline act within the law to collect and dissect data from online sources that do not require any login credentials. Such sources include the Internet, government reports, social media sites, online user-generated content, websites, and so on. That’s how ethical competitive intelligence gathering should remain – truthful, fair, and honest, and here are our top three recommendations to enshrine the aggregation of information about competitors as an ethical activity at your enterprise.

Importance of Ethical Competitive Intelligence

Collect publicly available data only

Gathering any confidential data on the competition, be they trade secrets, proprietary information, or confidential customer data, is unethical and illegal, which means the individuals and businesses involved could face legal action. Similarly, there could be profound legal consequences for businesses, or their proxies, found to be employing highly questionable methods such as by gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data on competitor’s computer systems or using snooping devices. Stealing physical records is no less a crime. Dangling inducements to persuade the competitor’s employees to part with confidential competitive information is a blatant violation of competitive intelligence ethics, apart from being patently illegal!

When it comes to gathering ethical competitive intelligence, practitioners should do what will keep them on the right side of the law and make them look good in the eyes of customers and other stakeholders. In sum, anything that sounds like corporate espionage is a strict no-no.   

Be forthright about the how’s and whys of data collection

Our research and experience suggest businesses that are open and honest about the methods they adopt to gather ethical competitive intelligence and their underlying intents are more likely to be trusted and believed in by all stakeholders. These are also the enterprises that succeed in keeping their ethical standards alive. They also make sure to give a wide berth to unethical methods such as collecting personally identifiable information and misrepresenting their identity and intents to lay hands on confidential competitor data. 

Firm up policy on ethical competitive intelligence

In practice, nothing works better than rolling out a corporate policy – in case there isn’t one in place already, around ethical competitive intelligence. This will serve as a guiding beacon, a true North Star, for employees and the organization at large, by helping them know right from wrong in competitive data gathering. With this policy serving as a solid basis for making decisions, employees could reasonably be expected to uphold legal and data privacy standards while gathering competitive data.

How can Infiniti Research help you?

At Infiniti Research, we offer an expanding bucket of research and analytics services for collecting almost every kind of data on your competitors. Specialists in survey interviews, analysts, and statisticians are hard to find these days, but with much effort, we have built up a formidable team of business and customer intelligence experts from the ground up. These are dedicated professionals with a certain inexplicable passion for their trade and who understand the convolutions and complexities of rolling out initiatives to garner ethical competitive intelligence. Our experts boast more than two decades of firsthand experience in 15-plus diverse sectors. 

Experience tells us (and we are sure many of our clients will also vouch for the same) that advanced web scraping is a handy approach when it comes to extracting large volumes of relevant ethical competitive intelligence from public-facing sources on the Internet. For example, a CPG or FMCG might consider gathering product reviews and ratings from diverse review sites to further decode the emotional tone (sentiment analysis”) of these messages. With our web scraping infrastructure, we can confidently meet the growing demand for competitor data from our client base. Intersecting the human skills of our survey/interview experts with software and algorithmic expertise, we make it easy for clients to gather relevant competitor data that really works to their advantage!

Author details:

Yvonne Herkemij

Managing Director, North America

We help our clients make smarter decisions to achieve rapid business growth

Our strength lies in the unrivaled diversity of our international market research teams, innovative research methodologies, and unique viewpoints that merge seamlessly to offer customized solutions for your every business requirement.

Sorry, we no longer support Internet Explorer. Please upgrade to latest version of Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Firefox.