Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Easy Way to Reduce Corporate Espionage

The thought of corporate espionage used to conjure images of insiders being paid by competitors to provide confidential information or hackers making their way into corporate intranets to gain access to cost or design secrets.  Although these aspects of spying obviously exist, gaining access to privileged information is not that difficult.  It may actually be as easy as hanging around a coffee shop.

When I write a blog post, article, or book, I often do it in a coffee shop (American - not Dutch).  Over the last several weeks, while i was actually trying to concentrate on what I was writing, I realized how much confidential information is openly discussed over coffee.  Among the surprisingly loud discussions going on nearby, I overheard the sales strategies for a pharmaceutical company, costing information for an instrument manufacturer, and exploration plans for a major gas producer.  Fortunately for these companies, I believe spying is unethical, and I wasn't really paying attention anyway, but there is no guarantee that any of the other people sitting near me felt the same way.

It's a shame that we've gotten to the point where some companies would rather steal information than compete on the merits of their business strategies, but this is the reality of the world in which we live.  People really need to be more aware of what they are talking about over a cup of coffee - especially when the foccee shop is near the workplace.

So for your own protection, please use coffee shops for discussions about personal topics, complaints about your boss, or politics, but keep confidential information where it belongs: behind closed doors.

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