As a product marketer or manager, you may not think of yourself as a CI practitioner. But CI provides actionable intelligence that powers informed product and marketing plans. And naturally, you seek a competitive advantage by being the first to know or access unique, hard-to-find information.
Everyone wants that competitive advantage. But practicing CI collection and analysis requires awareness of the limitations to acquiring and using information that may live in a gray zone — not fully in the public domain, but not a corporate secret, either. It requires great care to understand what information may be legally collected, and how to collect it ethically.
Discussing corporate ethics is commonplace. But mentioning the ethics of CI can set a darker tone. Perhaps the term "intelligence" is the culprit, suggesting shadowy figures engaging in clandestine and espionage activities. This, of course, is a common misconception about CI.
Following are factors to consider in your CI practices — no cloak and dagger needed. At the core, what you can do (legally) and what you should do (ethically) are two sides of the same coin. Both the can and should are guardrails you must consider. Here, we draw on more than 50 years of combined experience as CI practitioners and providers to recommend practical considerations regarding the ethics of CI. As with any recommendations, they should be filtered through your own company's requirements.