The world of CI (competitive intelligence) spans the spectrum from analytical data gathering to seamy shoulder surfing and of course the use of custom Trojan horses. This article in Forbes describes how you can get insight into a company's future product plans by researching their job postings. In this case it turns out that Google is looking to hire the kinds of talent that would be needed to develop a GooglePhone (g-phone?).
The company's own job listings, for instance, have allowed Google watchers and followers to spot advance signs of everything from its online office suite to a possible foray into the travel business.
You certainly cannot fault someone for perusing publicly available information to glean tidbits like this. While the CI work of several Israeli companies who hired Private Investigators to install Trojan horses on competitors' computers to steal files is reprehensible.
I was reminded of the practices of at least one of the Big Four auditing firms when I overheard a conversation between three obvious consulting types getting on the plane to San Francisco last night. They mentioned their own firm, a client, and the size of a deal they just won ($500K). I almost gave them a lecture on loose lips, etc. A good friend recently interviewed with a different Big Four firm for a position in their competitive intelligence department. The head of that team was ex-Special Forces and his interview questions clearly indicated that their practices included eavesdropping and shoulder surfing (reading documents on your laptop) on airplanes as well as masquerading at trade shows and having sticky fingers when it came to misplaced documents, dossiers, etc.
What I am trying to say is that *everyone* should be a little more paranoid today. So:
1. Do *not* allow anyone to see critical presentations or spreadsheets that you are working on.
2. Do *not* leave your laptop or documents unattended on an airplane.
3. Check on your recruiters to make sure they are not leaking company directions with their job postings.
4. Never mention a client's name in public. Use code names.
5. Unless you are in marketing do not advertise your company affiliation on your clothes or computer bag. You will be targeted by information seekers, even by laptop thieves.
Too paranoid? I think not.