There were days long before the transparency of the Internet where it took time and energy to find out what the competition was doing. Now, because you can simply search Google and find out a few things by looking around, we are all competitive analysts.
So, is corporate espionage real. I think it is bigger than it has ever been. If you read this article on Corporate Espionage in the Wall Street Journal, you will notice there was a 53% increase in “economic” espionage cases in the past year according to the FBI.
We live in an open society and adding the Internet we are now not just an open society, we are at every level vulnerable and easy to navigate our thoughts, desires and our next startup business plans.
Sounds like it is only something that impacts big companies, right?
Well, I actually saw a situation where we were about to release a new tagline for NTT/Verio and a competitor, I am not going to name (let’s just say they are a top hosting company), introduced the exact same tagline a week before our big release. It was not a coincidence! And it really sucked. We found out on that day how stupid we really were.
So, does stealing, spying and taking your ideas apply to the startup level?
You need to watch your Ps and Qs.
I get it. Most of you who work for a big company may think it really is not your job to protect the company strategies and information. But you are aware it is actually something you can get fired over. And there probably is a document you signed saying you can’t reveal information to a competitor. It is a standard legal agreement with your employer. So you get drunk at the next conference and you spill the beans to the cute girl at the bar. Who would know the difference?
One associate of mine is completely obsessed with Google and their far off reach to any and all information. He does not think they are the “Do No Evil” company. In fact, he refuses to use Gmail, Google Drive or any Google asset where they can read his information. I have to login to something like Squirrel Mail in order to correspond with him. For some reason he thinks Skype is not a problem. I guess he think Microsoft is not very competitive anymore. He has stated to me unequivocally that Google has more than once stolen his concepts, ideas and methods and therefor he is wary. He stated to me that Google has interests across the board in ventures that would like to get their hands on his information.
You would be surprised what the information he is concerned about because it has nothing to do with Search Engines or the kind of ventures you think of when you think of Google. Have you looked at what Google is into? Would you be surprised if this was about oil and gas or construction or gold? Well, there is a Google trace in all of these things today! And then there is another factor. The board members and top guys at Google are invested in everything else under the sun! They have interests in things that need data, your data!
Should you be concerned about Google?
Well, let’s think about it. Google is under pressure from stockholders like every other company in the US. They need to succeed bigger and better in every discipline they are in. What discipline are they not in? What you and I call stealing and espionage, they refer in their prospectus as Big Data or Business Intelligence.
Let’s face it, if Google can get to your business plans and crunch them into a big data machine and come out with hot trends and directions for their business, then it is fair game!
So, how do you protect yourself?
Well, I am not saying here that Google is a thief exactly? You can interpret this a lot of ways. But people take advantage of things. They are human and that is what they do.
I simply use different services, like Dropbox, Skype and Linkedin. I don’t just use Google. You should too. Spread yourself around. And sometimes pay for things. If you don’t pay the fine print probably says they can do whatever they want with the data. Does Dropbox, Microsoft and Linkedin have Business Intelligence and Big Data? Why would they not have it?
Am I really that paranoid of Google?
I use Gmail extensively. So, I just deal with it. But when suddenly certain coincidences occur, like a startup product or service I am working on, seems to be in Google’s next release, we have to say is it simply Luck of the Draw, “a lot of people think alike these days”, God talking to me, or something more sinister.
But sometimes if something looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it often is a duck. Your biggest fears may actually be correct. In fact, some Googlers may actually be reading this now and working on how they are going to shut me down!
But, it is all just a theory.
Well, there is the other side of the coin. Every time I work on a startup we use the power of Google to find competitors, strategies, information on people and technologies and everything we can to compete. It is what every startup is doing constantly. You hear a competitor name. You go to their domain. You read their info. You are only human. If you can get some dribs and drabs to compete on, you do it!
We are all Corporate Spies!
Yes, that is what you are! You just don’t see it clearly. We call it education, slideshare viewing, Linked article reading, Blog reading, podcast reading and just listen. Where does line end between corporate intelligence and espionage. All the lines are blurred. Those who know how to use it to their advantage and can read through all this junk and find something out they probably should not know in advance, well they are the lucky ones, hmm I mean corporate spies!
By the way, if you think that you need a second opinion on what app to use and not have your data stolen, I am available for consulting. Are you busy and so confused that you need to hire a consultant? Then, let me just say that I am pretty much for now a consultant. That means that YOU have the ability to hire me on an hourly basis, to come to your location (that’s where you work) and work on issues like figuring out whether or not information is safe. Not exactly what I have worked on in the past, but I am available and can definitely handle the assignment. Or let’s say you want to write a piece of content about this subject. Or let’s say you are a magazine or paper and would like to have a guest writer on this subject, then let me know! So to get in touch with me call me at Lexington 5000. I mean you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day!
This article was originally posted on Linkedin Pulse, but I am finding that Linkedin, while it gets some interesting readership numbers, does not post as well as my blogs on WordPress do. So here is the post and a link to the original post: