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Blog: Blog

Discussing the SCIP Code of Ethics

Thursday, May 2, 2019  
Posted by: Cam Mackey
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In this article: Dr. Avner Barnea, Chairman of The Israeli Competitive Intelligence Forum and SCIP Board Member, talks about he state of ethical intelligence practices in the competitive intelligence field. In particular, he commented on the need for ethics guidelines to be updated as social media continues to play a larger role in the gathering of competitive intelligence.


SCIP: The SCIP Code of Ethics for competitive intelligence professionals, which you helped to write, is fairly widely known in CI circles and can be easily found online as well. Can you briefly outline the guiding principles that helped you to craft this code of ethics?


Barnea: I thought that it was highly important to strive continually to increase the recognition and respect of the profession of intelligence for business in order to remain competitive. To do so, it was vital to provide honest and realistic recommendations and conclusions in the execution of CI professional's duties. The code of ethics seem to be in need of an update, especially after social media and other open source intelligence (OSINT) sources have become a major source for the collection of information in order to obtain competitive advantage.


There was a need to declare that SCIP expects that all its members obtain information that is legal and readily available through social media channels without misrepresenting themselves in any manner and to disclose the use of that information openly. That's why The SCIP Code of Ethics became a set of guidelines for ethical behavior for all organizations and companies, and for all disciplines and practitioners globally that engage in conducting business of any sort. These are actually guidelines by which companies and practitioners can set their own standards along the ethical spectrum.


SCIP: Can you address the importance of transparency in CI?


Barnea: We are living in the era of transparency as so much information is available. Actually, there is very little information that cannot be obtained. This is why it is so vital to make sure that there are constraints that limit what can be obtained, and this is guided by the Code of Ethics. It is also important to show that we rely on open source intelligence that by its nature is transparent. It is obvious that we are not involved in the unauthorized gathering of information, which is classified, and in order to get it, there is a need to commit criminal activities.


SCIP:  Can you distinguish CI from market research and “corporate spying?”


BarneaCorporate spying is a criminal activity that uses unlawful tools and systems to gather information. This is a red flag to every business person (and citizen) including CI professionals. Market research is actually looking deeply into the behavior of clients trying to get insights how to motivate them to become "our" customers and to remain loyal customers. Competitive Intelligence is the process of legally and ethically gathering and analyzing information about competitors and the industries in which they operate in order to help organizations to make better decisions and reach its goals It should be done within the ethical boundaries established by SCIP. It is worthwhile to emphasize that CI is looking simultaneously at changes in the current business environment and also towards the future market and competitors' moves in order to support decision-makers.


SCIP:  How do you think social media and digitization have changed the CI field?


BarneaSocial media has dramatically changed CI practice. It became a very important source of information, including information about the competitive arena. Because of its huge volume of information, there was a need to develop highly sophisticated IT tools in order to support the gathering process, the selection of relevant information and also to help with the analysis. Nowadays, it is impossible to see CI without a significant contribution of information sourced from the social media.


SCIP:  How does globalization affect the goal of maintaining ethical intelligence practices? (i.e. across different regions, cultural norms, laws, etc). Are there any sort of international governing guidelines in existence?


BarneaIt seems as though globalization has emphasized even more the need for ethical intelligence practices as it is important to have a common language and understanding of behavioral recommendations when it comes to gathering business information. More countries are adopting a CI profession and discipline. The law in every country in this matter may be different, but the ethical code is relevant for all.


SCIP: Thinking about ethical intelligence practices in organizations, it seems that there are three key pillars: A. What is legal? B. Corporate guidelines—the practices outlined by your organization that you should follow as a CI professional C. Your personal code of ethics or what guides you in doing business. Would you agree? Can you elaborate?


BarneaWhat is legal? The actual meaning is to make sure that the information gathered has been achieved by legal means. But it has to be emphasized that ethics is often beyond the legal practice. Meaning it is possible to act unethically but not against the law and from the aspects of this code, that is unacceptable.


Regarding corporate guidelines, many corporations have corporate guidelines which are public. It is important to make sure that these guidelines are not contradictory to the CI ethical code which deals with the practice of getting business information.


In terms of my personal code of ethics, in my capacity as the Chairman of FIMAT (The Israeli CI forum) I have the opportunity to speak often to my colleagues about the importance of working precisely according to these guidelines. Personally, I'm very keen about this issue, especially as we had a few cases in recent years when CI professionals were found to be operating against these guidelines.


Dr. Avner Barnea is a Competitive Intelligence Management Consultant to larger corporations operating in Israel and Israeli companies operating in global markets. He is also Head of CI, Corporate Security and Crisis Management Studies, MBA program, the Netanya Academic College. He lectures on Competitive Intelligence in BA and MBA programs in academic colleges in Israel. Since January 2014, he has been the Chairman of FIMAT (Israel Competitive Intelligence Forum), SCIP's affiliation in Israel. Since December 2015, he has been a Member of the Board of Directors of SCIP. He has published approximately 60 articles on CI.

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