Economic intelligence and espionage - what are the differences?


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The concepts of economic intelligence and espionage are confused by a wide range of entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, there are significant differences between them, which make one action legal and the other illegal.

Spy and economic intelligence

If people who carry out such activities are approached with regard to the issue of economic espionage and intelligence of the same nature, the first conceptual differences can be shown. The word "spy" usually has a negative meaning.This term is used to describe a person who often uses the identity of someone else to obtain secret data at any cost. The spy works on behalf of the government of a given country or, for example, a specific organization. Economic espionage is carried out using all kinds of methods, not always compliant with the law and the code of ethics, according to the principle that the end justifies the means.

Meanwhile, economic intelligence is a legal activity consisting in obtaining information, processing it, storing it and making it available to specific entities, without breaking the law, and most of all disclosing business secrets. While economic espionage is punishable in Poland, economic intelligence can be a real support for running a business and building a strong, competitive brand in a given industry. "It is detrimental to agencies that obtain information using intelligence methods to see the concepts of espionage and economic intelligence as synonymous. If this perception changes, it will be for the benefit of the entrepreneurs themselves”- notes Piotr Łukaszczyk from Detektyw24.

Legal aspects of espionage and economic intelligence

According to Polish law, economic espionage is a crime, while economic intelligence, defined as the totality of coordinated activities leading to the acquisition of information useful in the economic sector, only by lawful means, is a legally acceptable activity. Economic espionage can be equated with the so-called "Black" economic intelligence. It includes activities aimed at gaining access to classified information by using improper means. Espionage allows the disclosure of the secrets of competing companies, which is a serious threat to the company. Whoever performs economic espionage risks being punished with a fine or the penalty of restriction or imprisonment.