It has become a norm for companies to acquire and make use of some kind of information regarding their competitors, whether through industrial profiling, market scanning or industrial espionage. Therefore, as Chief executive officer of Silicon Valley Software Company, I am expected to do everything possible to keep an edge over my competitors. While it may be legal for my company to hire a secretary from my competitor who may have some useful information about their new program, it is not ethical. This tactic is unethical because it violates the duty of conducting truthful business dealings and being honest. This tactic is similar to spying on a competitor with the hope of gaining their trust and get the competitor reveal its secret. Since the secretary is a trusted employee of the competitor, taking her away is a dishonest act that amounts to unfair business practice.
Conversely, sending an attractive employee to a bar so that he or she can get information from my competitors’ programmers is ethical. I know that copying the program of our competitor is unethical. However, Crane (2005) argues that sending someone to do some research on the competitor’s program and using that information to come up with a unique and better program is ethical. Silicon Valley has no intention of reinventing the program, but coming up with a program that is better than the competitor’s. Note that there is no insider trading going on in this scenario.
Hunting down and reading everything that has been published by our competitor is unethical. This practice is not only unethical, but also illegal. As the Chief Executive Officer, I have the mandate of protecting the company and employees from legal actions, which may emanate from such actions. Sending an employee for such a venture will expose the company to unfavorable publicity.