The above is a link to an interesting article written by John Prescott called "The Private Sector: Espionage, Ethics, and 'Competitive Intelligence." In the article, Prescott discusses the concept of competitive intelligence, which is the activity of collecting, analyzing, and utilizing business-related information to help make informed decisions. Prescott also discusses the ethical dilemma behind the use of competitive intelligence. The big issue at hand is that although some of this information and the competitive use of information may not be illegal in certain instances, there is an ethical responsibility for companies to use better judgment and respond ethically to the information they receive. An example of this is the case of Proctor and Gamble in which Prescott discusses in the article. According to the article, Proctor and Gamble used competitive intelligence in order to enhance shareholder value. Although this was not deemed illegal, the "average citizen" would view the espionage used by P&G to be unethical and illegitimate.
I found this article particularly interested for a number of reasons. The first reason being my background in business and my general interest in business ethics and how big business operates. The second reason for its relevance to the discussion we had earlier on in the semester about the ethics postponing the release of important medical information or medicines by private sector companies in order to gain financially. In our discussion of the topic, we discussed how some private sector companies often postpone release of new information or better medicines in order to continue to profit from current medicines or information that is available to the public. These two topics are very similar in nature. In essence, these private sector medical companies are using competitive intelligence to profit in the same way as these private sector big businesses are doing. I found this article to be very interesting, especially with our experience with the ethics of private sector companies.
I personally find it unethical to use competitive intelligence in the medical industry because of the ethical implications it could lead to because the potential benefits new drugs and information could have on the public. I find it a bit trickier in the private sector retail industry, however. The reason for this is that although I believe a company has the responsibility to be honest with the public, it is often crucial to gain a competitive advantage against your competitors in order to stay in business. Without a competitive advantage or use of competitive intelligence, many smaller companies would probably falter, leading to a few large companies developing a monopoly in the industry, which also leads to unfavorable results and potentially unethical behavior by the monopolized companies.