Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

12 Ways to (Legally) Spy on Your Competitors

Here's a short article on 12 Ways to Spy on Your Competitors, but with decent content from Entrepreneur magazine, where author, Carol Tice interviewed some of our colleagues, Seena Sharp, August Jackson and Sean Campbell. It's been widely Tweeted, liked on Facebook and shared a bunch on LinkedIn. There are a fair number of comments as well.

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Thanks for posting this Ellen..

I think I may have done probably 9 of those techniques to snoop on my company's competitors...


Nice tips.

May I add them in my Online Notes?

I shall send you online notes links to read them


Sure why not. This article is Open Source. Just make sure you mention it came from Entrepreneur Magazine.

Thank you very much

The article mentions sites for finding confidential files posted on the web for internal sharing.  Often they may be labelled Confidential, Internal, Proprietary, etc.  Kind of like finding a confidential document on the street on other public place, clearly lost or misplaced - not published.

What legal and ethical restrictions do people follow on using "found" material? 

5 out 100 people reached the post office or nearby office to handle them to destination  place (provide they have enough time for this job and packed with address on it). It is unethical to open and read the inside story. But if it is opened documents with no address or label on it then you have rights to read it (careful, it could be your competitor's tactics to put you on wrong direction) . read it, investigate it and adopt the information :)

I could tell you so many stories about finding confidential information in public places, not just the Internet. The most flagrant was at an industry conference where a company had a important marketing meeting and left the door open when they went to lunch! Wow! The 5 Year strategic plan was there for all to see. 

My point is companies also need to take responsibility to keep confidential information hidden. I think more companies are careless rather than hoping that you the competitor will read misleading tactics. But in this global economy, with new ways of communicating, anything is possible!

Yes, we all have stories like that, but happening upon something that is actually of use to you is not that common, but a Google search for a specific topic of real interest that produces a relevant hit on Scribd or some other presentation sharing site is very common. I'm interested in people's opinion on whether it is ethical or legal to use this information - particularly if it is explicitly labelled as Confidential? 

Jason, Ellen

I agree with Ellen that most companies are not sophisticated enough to engage in spreading purposeful and coordinated, misinformation and on that note most aren't adept at any form of counterintel. (i.e. recognizing when they are being targeted and elicited by competitors- ie via the RFP process- that's a favorite in my industry.)

I'd have to disagree with Jason however and maybe it's an industry variation. Scribd and some of the other sites like it I haven't found particularly useful. Rather I've found hidden competitor sites that you have to know some pretty serious details of a company's internal org to get there-but in the instance of one competitor I followed for years, they had all their internal benchmarking data,sell against tools, launch plans right out on the web in an edms system with no password required! Beautiful!

As to the legal issue if one finds a document labeled confidential in the public domain-ie particularly on the Internet -hard case for the company to make that they took reasonable measures to protect it.

If it's in a public place like Scribd, Slideshare, etc, if it's market "Confidential", it shouldn't be there since they are open sources for all to see. What's the point of "Confidential" when anyone can lift it. Again people need to take pain to keep what they consider to be confidential information off the Internet, but time and again we find stuff on the Internet that simply shouldn't be there. It is the responsibility of the company posting that information to keep it confidential. Once it's out in the public domain, no matter how it's marked, it is now not confidential. It's public. My 2 cents.


No matter how hard people try to claim and advocate that Competitive Intelligence is "Holier Than Thou", the tag of  SPY whether legal or illegal will always remain.

12 Ways to (Legally) Spy on Your Competitors by CAROL TICE, gives competitive intelligence such good publicity. 


I guess it is time for spies of the world to unite. I mean the spies who believe in LEGAL spying.

@Vivek Raghuvanshi:

Hahahaha, you recalled the moments I asked my lecturer in Ethical Hacking Class. " Hacking is itself unethical then how can we call it ethical hacking and some more Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH) "

Great time!


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