When practitioning Competitive Intelligence, you always balance on the line between what information is available, and what information isn’t, but can be made available. In the latter situation the question is at what price this information can be obtained. Does it involve a visit to the competitor’s showroom while portraying oneself as a customer? Or making employees of your competitor believe they are participating in a market research project while you’re collecting interesting information for your own benefit? When thinking about these situations, questions about ethics come forward. According to Julia Evans, the writer of the interesting paper ‘Misrepresentation in CI: An Ethical Analysis’, the most common ethical questions in CI concern misrepresentation:
Misrepresentation occurs whenever a CI practitioner lies or misleads a competitor about their identity in order to gain access to information.