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Is It Ethical to Gather Competitive Intelligence?

Ethical competitive intelligence firms avoid irresponsible data collection methodologies when helping you and other clients. Also, seasoned professionals know how to implement competitive data aggregation techniques without causing moral hazards. This post will explain the ethics of gathering competitive intelligence and preventing corporate espionage. 

Discussing Competitive Intelligence vs Corporate Espionage

Competitive intelligence is ethical if the data collection procedure does not compromise the information technology systems in competing firms. Furthermore, whether the CI dataset is ethical or unethical depends upon context and data source. 

If the competitive intelligence solutions do not adhere to the ethics in data aggregation, it is corporate espionage. 

1 | Scope of Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence (CI) gives businesses beneficial insights into the business strategy used by their competitor firms. Therefore, CI datasets must contain data on competing products and services. Excellent competitive intelligence solutions also assimilate the data concerning rival firms’ customer bases. 

You can estimate your market position and prepare a competitive strategy to surpass your competitors. Besides, businesses process their CI datasets with data analytics services to obtain competitive insights. 

2 | What Does Espionage Imply?

The word ‘Espionage’ indicates spying or eavesdropping to extract sensitive information from enemies in political science and military tactics; espionage is critical in such fields. 

It does not create moral hazards in politics, criminal investigation, journalism, or security affairs. Instead, it helps armies, police, news agencies, detectives, and political leaders prevent tragic or controversial events before they happen. 

Also Read: Future of Customer Experience

3 | Explaining Corporate Espionage in a Nutshell

However, the business world relies upon trust, branding, and transparency. So, corporate espionage means an unethical collection of competitive intelligence data. If you use corporate espionage, the resulting moral hazard can destroy your brand, stocks, and public relations. 

Understandably, competitive intelligence firms use ethical techniques such as anonymization and publicly accessible knowledge resources in their data analytics services. 

What Are the Ethics of Gathering Competitive Intelligence?

When you utilize competitive intelligence solutions, you must know when not to cross a morally ambiguous line. We recommend staying faithful to the following principles or commandments of all the competitive intelligence firms and teams. 

  • Do not commit identity theft or other cybercrimes to acquire competitor data. 
  • Avoid monitoring the employees working in your firm and rival companies without their knowledge and explicit consent. 
  • Increase awareness of the legal regulations concerning public data, privacy, defamation, and cybersecurity. 
  • Teach your team members and service providers the difference between corporate intelligence vs. corporate espionage. 
  • Never compromise the data management and communication systems in competing firms. 
  • Prevent and penalize any attempts to infringe upon intellectual property rights (IPR) and trade secrets. 

Methods of Ethical Competitive Intelligence Services

How can the businesses or service providers ensure their CI dataset is free of moral hazards? Our team highlights the standard procedures considered ethical in competitive intelligence solutions. 

1 | Collect Publicly Discoverable Competitor Data

Every brand wants to build its online presence through social media marketing (SMM) and search engine marketing (SEM). Also, nobody likes to have zero customer ratings on public forums about their industry. 

Finally, you rarely encounter a worthy business rival without a corporate website and an e-commerce repository; these are CI data sources. Therefore, the competitor data on such public platforms is a legitimate component in the competitive intelligence services. 

2 | Survey Employees and Customers via Transparent Interactions

Ethical firms collect consent from the form-filling parties during surveys. You must never pressure your employees or clients to give information if they feel uneasy. 

Often, you can bridge the intel gaps in survey feedback using reliable machine-learning technologies in data analytics services. However, every competitive intelligence firm must acknowledge the irremovable dataset drawbacks. 

3 | Never Hide or Lie About the Quality Deficiencies in Competitive Data

Do you recall how corporate espionage hurts your brand and consumer trust? Alternatively, you might lose your corporate standing due to improper CI data. Is it ethical to gather competitive intelligence without disclosing data quality dynamics? 

Your clients have faith in you and your competitive intelligence solutions; respect them. Do not file incorrect details in the data quality audit documentation to meet the deadlines.  


Competitive intelligence firms gather competitor and operational data to help organizations grow, achieve objectives, and avoid mistakes. However, its malicious application amounts to the moral hazard of corporate espionage. 

Businesses must overtake their competitors in compliance with the ethics of gathering competitive intelligence. i.e., without damaging their trade secrets. Companies that exploit corporate espionage risk losing reputation and social capital permanently. 

How can you ensure CI datasets remain compliant with the prevailing standards of legitimate competitive data gathering? You focus on selecting the trusted and transparent CI service providers. 

SG Analytics is a leading firm in competitive intelligence services enabling enterprises to acquire authentic insights and a strategic edge. Contact us today if you require analytical support in competitor data management. 

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