As a seasoned CI professional and professional cynic, it seems that many people, both industry insiders and the gawping public at large, see CI as a dark art – little short of bin-raiding (dumpster diving for our American cousins!) and corporate espionage. Given my exposure to the industry over the years, especially supply-side, I am very inclined to agree.
With that in mind, is it impossible to align CI collection methods (excluding the Mary Poppins / Lucy Librarian open-source intel approach) with ethics – are concepts such as informed consent, confidentiality, ethics, and downright decency simply not possible when you’re trying to get hold of hard-to-get-hold-of info on competitors, often from those competitors themselves? Or do we need to draw a line, and insist that CI should only be based on open-source intelligence and that anything beyond that – gambitting, mystery shopping, armed robbery – be outlawed? A new age of CI For The Straight Guy, perhaps?
Do we need a different code of practice (“it’s okay to lie to get what you want… as long as you don’t get caught”…?), as CI collection currently seems to fall foul of many aspects of market research codes of practice? And how do we ensure and enforce compliance ("do you PROMISE not to BS competitors into telling you about their sales operations?")? Do we need a CI priest / yogi / mullah to take our CI confessions and unburden our research sins?
Finally, what should best-practice CI involve, in terms of sources, resources, methods, guidelines, etc?