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Blog: Blog

Q&A About Ethical Intelligence Practices

Tuesday, April 30, 2019   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Cam Mackey
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Gwendoline Savoy is a market intelligence professional with over 10 years of experience in international markets, elections / B2G industries and high-growth IT companies. In her current position as Senior Director of Marketing at Scytl, Ms. Savoy supports the management, sales and product teams by delivering actionable intelligence and strategic direction. She has built the market intelligence function from scratch and assisted the company in closing a $104M funding in 2014. Ms. Savoy holds a double Master’s degree in Marketing and has previously worked for Invest in Bavaria, Germany and for the Ardennes Chamber of Commerce and Industry in France. She speaks fluent French, English, Spanish and German.


SCIP:  Do you believe women can be a positive force for change when it comes to improving ethical intelligence practices? Why or why not? 

Savoy: Yes, I do believe that women can be a positive force for change when it comes to improving ethical intelligence practices. Building an ethical culture or improving ethical practices not only requires that people be aware of ethical challenges, but also that they have a clear and sincere intention to take them seriously. Women are conscientious professionals with a high sense of responsibility who think collectively and work for the common interest. These are necessary qualities when it comes to implementing or improving ethical practices within an organization.

SCIP: Do you think CI professionals are educated enough by their organizations about the ethical gray areas that inevitably exist in working as a CI professional? Ways to address or improve? 

SavoyIn my experience, which is based on CI practice applied to SMEs, I would say no. Having that said, I think it is the role of any CI professional to get informed and educate their organizations about good practices, clarify potential grey areas and define the processes to follow to carry out CI functions. 


SCIP: What about European privacy laws? Can you comment on how the EU Data Protection Directive has affected or will affect intelligence practices and the use of data in CI? 

SavoyAs my business relates to Governments and elections, I haven’t really been affected by European privacy laws and I don’t think the General Data Protection Regulation should further affect my practice as a CI professional. This regulation will affect our business which is why our R&D and security teams are currently assessing the impact of this new regulation, but from a CI perspective I shouldn’t be affected.However, for those businesses who specialize in B2C activities, I do believe EU Data Protection will affect them, and particularly from a consumer intelligence perspective. To what extent? I don’t know yet.

SCIPDo you think there are important regional differences in ethical intelligence practices? For instance, are there any important distinctions between different European countries and approaches? Things to learn from other countries? A need for a centralized European Code of Conduct?

SavoyI don’t think there are differences in terms of ethical intelligence practices, but I do think there are differences in how these practices are framed, documented and communicated throughout an organization. These differences are due to:

  • Different levels of CI maturity throughout European countries. In my opinion, countries like France, Germany or Switzerland are much more advanced in their CI practice than countries like Spain or Italy, where CI is still emerging
  • The company culture
  • The level of experience of the CI director/manager within an organization

Rather than establishing a European code of conduct, I think that organizations such as SCIP are perfectly positioned to establish detailed and global guidelines regarding best practices in CI ethics.

SCIP: How do you see the role of social media and digitization affecting the CI industry and ethics? 

SavoySocial media usage has grown and diversified intensively over the past 10 years and its monitoring has become a globally accepted tool for competitive intelligence. Internet and digitization have made access to information much easier but at the same time CI professionals are provided with so much content that they need to be able to filter, select and process the right data to provide actionable intelligence. In this sense, I think the CI industry has evolved quite significantly.


Regarding ethical practices, it is true that social media should be used carefully--and ethically-- as misinformation is also used to confuse or undermine one’s competitors. Social media has also become a place where it is easy for an employee to “leak” internal information. Since social media is public, and open to anyone, it is the role of CI professionals to educate employees about social media usage and triangulate any information of interest they could detect through social media.

SCIPWhat challenges do you see on the horizon for CI and ethics as globalization continues? 

SavoyAs globalization continues, organizations increasingly face fierce competition as well as technological disruptions. They need to adapt to new environments, anticipate market evolutions, get ahead of their competition and maximize profit faster. However, getting ahead sometimes means doing whatever it takes, even if you’re acting unethically. This is the reason why I believe that establishing a global CI ethical code of conduct to which any CI professional can refer is of paramount importance. Also, considering that an increasing number of organizations are relying on the CI function to define their strategies, I would also further educate CI professionals and organizations on the potential legal and financial consequences of illegal CI practices.


Lisa Badolato says...
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2019
A copy of the book Mr. Fleisher mentions "CI Ethics: Navigating in the Gray Zone" can be purchased online at the SCIP book store
Craig S. Fleisher, Aurora WDC/Council of CI Fellows says...
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2019
This was a refreshing read, and thanks to Gwendoline and Cam for sharing it. I'd agree with the (organization-wide) need for enhanced, increased and more sophisticated approaches to ethics in intelligence. As one of SCIP's earliest members, I'd also note that our association has produced a plethora of guidance on this topic, ranging from the "CI Ethics: Navigating in the Gray Zone" (Fehringer & Hohhof) publications, occasional CI Magazine articles on the topic, to our early Y2K task force that several other veteran CI leaders and I participated in which produced the timeless CI ethics FAQs, which are likely found elsewhere on this site and are worth referencing. The "ethics challenge" has gotten more complex and dynamic in recent years, so it behooves SCIP members and CI practitioners to regularly "sharpen their saws" on this topic.

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