In the company of spies: When competitive intelligence gathering becomes industrial espionage

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38 Citations (Scopus)


At what point does legitimate competitive intelligence gathering cross the line into industrial espionage, and what is it about certain intelligence gathering practices that makes them open to criticism? In order to shed light on current developments in the competitive intelligence gathering 'industry' and the ethical issues that are typically raised, this paper looks at three recent cases of industrial espionage, involving major multinationals, such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Canal Plus, and Ericsson. The argument is made that, from an ethical point of view, industrial espionage can be assessed according to three main considerations: the tactics used in the acquisition of information, the privacy of the information concerned, and the consequences for the public interest as a result of the deployment of the information by the intelligence gatherer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalBusiness Horizons
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005


  • Business ethics
  • Competitors
  • Industrial espionage
  • Information and communication technology
  • Intelligence gathering
  • Market research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing

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