Survey Finds Widespread Spying by Indian Companies

Corporate espionage is a booming industry in India, according to a recent report. And it’s being fueled by executives spying on their rivals as well as their own employees.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, known by the zingy acronym Assocham, usually releases statements on sober topics like RBI’s midterm credit policy review or industrial production figures. But last week it released a survey on corporate espionage.

“Over 35 percent of companies operating in various sectors across India are engaged in corporate espionage to gain advantage over their competitors and are even spying on their employees via social networking Web sites,” Assocham said in its report.

While checking out people’s activity on social media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter didn’t sound too alarming, Assocham made a stronger claim that about 900 respondents said that they plant a mole in other companies, usually as receptionists, photo-copiers and other low-end jobs.

“Assocham had learned about certain unconfirmed reports of prevalence of corporate espionage from many of its members which prompted us to carry out a survey to ascertain if it really was the case,” a spokesperson for the group told India Ink, asking not to be identified because of association policy.

Assocham said it conducted the “covert” survey by meeting about 1,500 corporate executives in five major cities and roughly 200 private eye agencies and trained sleuths.

Detectives said demand from companies in sectors such as information technology, infrastructure, insurance, banking and manufacturing, is overwhelming, according to D.S. Rawat, secretary general of Assocham.

“Almost all the company representatives in these domains acknowledged the prevalence of industrial espionage to gain access to information and steal trade secrets of their competitors through private deals with sleuths and spy agencies,” the survey notes, although it does not name any companies or cite specific examples.

That’s not all. About 1,200 respondents said they use detectives and surveillance agencies to constantly monitor their employees’ activities and whereabouts, using moles and social media, according to the survey.

Many detectives say that companies working with strong labor unions hire spy agencies and plant undercover agents to monitor union leaders to ensure they were not getting paid by competitors, politicians or others to create trouble, according to the report.

“About a quarter of respondents said they have hired computer experts for installing monitoring software to hack and crack the networks, track e-mails of their rivals and perform other covert activities,” Assocham notes.

Not surprisingly, the findings have been met with skepticism.

“It sounds far-fetched to me,” said Harminder Sahni, the founder and managing director of Wazir Advisors, a management consulting firm.

Find this story at 19 June 2012

June 19, 2012, 7:10 am
By SRUTHI GOTTIPATI
Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

Ikea investigates Stasi prisoner labour claims

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is investigating claims that its factories East German political prisoners for labour during the 1970s and 1980s.

The claims, which will be aired on Swedish public television’s (SVT) Uppdrag Granskning programme on Wednesday, first emerged in a German television documentary aired on WDR in July 2011.

The world’s largest furniture retailer said it had previously investigated the claims when they were aired on WDR and found no evidence to support them, according to an Ikea statement released on Friday.

But on Saturday the company said it had requested documents from the former East German secret police or Stasi archives and is “interviewing people at Ikea who were around back then,” according to Ikea’s social and environmental manager Jeanette Skjelmose.

“So far there are no indications that we would have asked that prisoners be used in manufacturing or known about it,” she told the Swedish news agency TT.

“What we’re looking into now is whether it could have happened anyway, without our knowledge,” she said.

The show claims there is evidence to support the allegation that political prisoners were used. A reporter for the show found documents supporting the claim in the Stasi files, according to a trailer for the show on SVT’s website.

“After the German documentary, Ikea examined the issue to get a more complete picture of what happened. We have so far found no evidence to suggest that political prisoners were used in production,” the firm wrote in its Friday statement.

Ikea claimed in its statement that it takes the issue seriously and stated that regular inspections were made of the firm’s factories in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

“We were clear in our demands then as we are now,” the firm stated.

During the 1970s, Ikea developed a strong manufacturing presence in the GDR, establishing operations in 65 locations across the country to produce parts and furniture.

The 2011 WDR documentary detailed claims, citing Stasi documents, that Ikea had a thorough cooperation with the East German authorities.

The programme illustrated the example of one factory, where Ikea’s popular Klippan sofa was produced, and which was located beside a prison in Waldheim.

A former prison chief told WDR that prison labour was an expected part of furniture production.

Ikea, an unlisted, family-owned company, is the world’s largest furniture retailer, with sales of €25 billion in 2011 and 131,000 employees at the end of its last fiscal year in August 2011.

 

Find this story at 1 May 2012 

 

Published: 1 May 12 10:12 CET
Updated: 1 May 12 23:37 CET

AFP/The Local/mw

Industry experts dominate key areas of policy making: new research finds 2/3 of DG Enterprise’s advisory groups corporate-dominated

New report examines the composition of DG Enterprise and Industry expert groups. Among its findings, the shocking conclusion that there are 482 corporate lobbyists versus only 11 union representatives.

Industry experts and corporate lobbyists have effectively captured key areas of policy advice within the European Commission, according to new research carried out by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched today at a joint event with the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) and the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour [1].

The study finds that two thirds of all of DG Enterprise’s non-governmental advisory groups are dominated by big business interests [2] with some 482 corporate advisors influencing key areas of policy, such as international trade, consumer protection, food and aspects of environmental protection.

In contrast, the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises have little opportunity to influence policy decisions through advisory groups, accounting for just 5% of the total non-governmental representatives. Representatives from NGOs (non-governmental organisations) account for just 8%, and unions for 1%.

The Commission’s advisory groups provide specialist advice on policy issues and their work can form the backbone of new legislation. The European Parliament has previously criticised the Commission for engaging more with big business than with any other social group through these advisory groups.

ALTER-EU argues that allowing big companies’ interests to dominate risks that the interests of these companies are given greater priority than the public interest. It also criticises the Commission’s own rules on expert groups which stress that “Commission services shall, as far as possible, ensure a balanced representation”.

One of the report authors, Yiorgos Vassalos from ALTER-EU, said:

“DG Enterprise seems to have become the champion of big business in the Commission. Their dominance in expert groups is providing business with privileged access to influence the policy agenda, while other interests do not have a similar voice. As a result there is a very real risk that industry lobbyists may capture whole areas of policy making at the European level, to the detriment of wider society.”

Oliver Roepke from the Austrian Trade Union Federation said:

“DG Enterprise seems to have forgotten that employees and workers are at the heart of the European economy. Their expertise and experience should also lie at the heart of policy making. Far too often we see DG Enterprise working with transnational corporations which have no interest in protecting jobs and decent living standards in Europe. This one-sided policy-making must be reformed.” [suggestion only – to be amended]

ALTER-EU is calling on the Commission to make major changes in the composition of its advisory groups to ensure that the public interest is properly served. It also calls on the Commission to implement the European Parliament’s demands and introduce safeguards against corporate capture of expert groups.

Contacts:

Yiorgos Vassalos, ALTER-EU, phone: 32-484675162 and email: yiorgos@corporateeurope.org

Paul de Clerck, ALTER-EU, phone: 32-494380959 and email: paul@milieudefensie.nl

Notes:

[1] Who’s driving the agenda at DG Enterprise and Industry? ALTER-EU, July 2012, see: http://www.alter-eu.org/sites/default/files/documents/DGENTR-driving.pdf

[2] The report authors defined that a group is dominated by a certain interest if that interest has more than half of the non-government seats.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of over 200 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms.
DGENTR-driving.pdf
Campaign:
Balanced expert groups

Publication date:
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Press release issued by:
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU)

Find the report at