Tales of Kites, Flippers and Other Corporate Spies
In Spooked, journalist Adam Penenberg and competitive intelligence expert Marc Barry offer a glimpse of the people and tactics of competitive intelligence. Although the context of the action is often mundane - the pizza industry and the glue industry are two examples - the activities of these corporate spies can rival the best of John LeCarre.
The story of Ten Hong (Victor) Lee, a scientist for adhesive giant Avery Dennison, is typical. Four Pillars, a Dennison competitor, paid Lee $27,000 a year for seven years to pass it confidential information. When Lee's cover was blown, Lee was "flipped" - he helped the U.S. government trap his Four Pillars contacts.
Not all competitive intelligence is illegal. Corporations have set up units to monitor "open sources" of information (published material, annual reports, etc.) to help them keep informed about the market and their competitors. But sometimes, these units might need a little bit more information about a competitor; that's when they turn to "kites" - private operatives willing to use any means of subterfuge to uncover information.
Spooked is not a history of competitive intelligence, but simply a few fascinating spy tales that may have you thinking twice about that suspicious salesperson asking all those questions.