Paper – Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 8, 2013

Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations, by Gary Ruskin, November 20, 2013

“Many different types of nonprofits have been targeted with espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups. Corporations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics. The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a nonprofit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal. Corporations engage in espionage against nonprofits with near impunity. Typically, they suffer nothing more than minor adverse media coverage if their espionage is exposed. The lack of accountability may encourage other corporations to conduct espionage. Corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations presents a threat to democracy and to individual privacy. Democracy cannot function without an effective civil society. But civil society and its nonprofit organizations depend crucially on their ability to keep some ideas, information, and conversations private. Individual citizens and groups do not lose their right to privacy merely because they disagree with the activities or ideas of a corporation. The right to privacy dovetails with our First Amendment rights to speech, public debate, and full participation in the “marketplace of ideas.” It is especially unjust that corporations sabotage Americans’ fundamental rights through actions that are unethical or illegal.  Many things can be done to protect nonprofits from corporate espionage. Congress should investigate and hold hearings on corporate espionage against nonprofits. Congress and state legislatures should enact legislation to criminalize the theft of confidential, noneconomic information held by their critics. Law enforcement – especially the U.S. Department of Justice – should prioritize investigating and prosecuting corporate espionage against nonprofits.”

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