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  • The Big Business of Industrial Spying
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    INDUSTRIAL spies, in some lands, have become more numerous than political spies. Yet their activities may be news to most persons. Why? Corporations that are the victims often prefer not to publicize what has happened, since this might give their competitors an advantage. Also, it might mar the image of the corporation.

    According to the German weekly Der Spiegel,

    March 20, 1972, which featured a lengthy story on the subject, the cost of industrial espionage to West German industry is 3,000 million marks annually. To American corporations the cost runs to 4,000 million dollars each year. In fact, industrial espionage is said to represent one of the greatest threats to modern industry. Dun’s magazine of October 1970 reports: “Many are the authenticated cases of helicopters hovering watchfully over Detroit’s test tracks, of eager hit-and-run photographers ripping the tarpaulin off a rival’s not-yet introduced model, snapping pictures and careening off at seventy miles an hour.”

    Giving an inkling of the extent of industrial spying is the fact that in the last two years 100,000 mini-electronic devices used by industrial spies have been sold in Germany.

    Counter -industrial espionage is also a costly operation as corporations seek to protect themselves against their competitors’ spies. In the “Yellow Pages” of the telephone directories of large cities one finds listed advertisements for “Commercial and Industrial Counter Espionage” services. America’s leading detective agency, it is said, has five thousand of its men employed in trying to uncover or prevent industrial spying.

    Stealing industrial secrets is not really new, however. It was more than 1,400 years ago that two monks played the role of industrial spies by smuggling out of China the secret of how to manufacture silk, a secret that China had successfully kept to herself for some 3,000 years.

    Then, early in the seventeenth century, a French Jesuit was able to smuggle out of China the secrets and materials for making porcelain. In the eighteenth century a German apothecary’s apprentice, Johann Fredrich Böttger, independent of the Chinese or French, discovered how to make porcelain and proceeded to manufacture it in Dresden. Soon the workers became virtual prisoners in the porcelain factories, for industrial spies began descending on Dresden, even seducing the wives and daughters of the workers, in an effort to discover the secret.

    What accounts for the phenomenal rise in industrial spying that until recent times was something only whispered about? There are basically three factors.

    One of these has been the great growth in the importance of technology with its growing scientific research. This is an extremely costly

    business and so the temptation is great to steal the fruits of others’ labors. Secondly, with the growth in size of modern corporations, the competition has become ever more fierce. And, of course, since there is an “increasing of lawlessness” in all spheres of human endeavor, it is to be expected that such a lucrative, dishonest activity as industrial spying would also be burgeoning.​— Matt. 24:12 .

    Disloyal Employees

    The whole greedy business of industrial spying calls to mind the ancient proverb, “A faithful man, who can find?”— Prov. 20:6 .

    Today there is ever less employee loyalty, and so an increasing number succumb to the temptation to sell company secrets for a price. Especially is this likely to be the case if an employee feels that he has a grievance, such as having been treated unjustly, passed up for a promotion, unfairly demoted or in some other way handled prejudicially. Because of the prevalence of industrial spying some corporations eye every applicant for a job as a likely agent for a competitor.

    In addition to industrial spying carried on by insiders, such as by disgruntled or greedy employees, there is that performed by outsiders.

    “Professional Investigators”

    Today there is an agency in West Germany, it is said, that will get any secret information anyone wants​—for a price. The basic cost for a subscription to their service may be as high as $47,000 a year.

    Top executives will pose as being interested in a merger for the sake of getting secret information out of a competitor. Said one counterespionage agent: “Most business executives would be shocked if they knew how often merger talks are nothing more than a blind for high-level espionage.”

    A “professional investigator” may assume any number of disguises. He may pose as a fire inspector who is seeking to find out if there are any fire code violations. Or he may pose as a job applicant wanting to know more about the firm for which he intends to work. Or he may claim to be a writer wanting to get firsthand information in order to write an authentic article. Thus one of these “professional investigators” had his wife pose as a writer of magazine articles and go down in a zinc mine to get some information on a secret process used to get rid of diesel engine fumes. The information wanted was readily supplied by trusting employees.

    International Espionage

    A notorious instance of industrial spying involved the production of the supersonic plane, the Concorde, developed by British and French governments and corporations. In the home of the director of the Russian airline Aeroflot in Paris the police discovered a huge pile of documents giving details of the construction of the plane. In fact, the spies were able to steal so much information that the Russians were able to make experimental flights with their own supersonic plane, the TU-144, even ahead of the British and the French with their Concorde.

    The stealing of drug cultures and other pharmaceutical information has also been extremely profitable. A group of Italian spies stole microbe cultures representing a loss of hundreds of millions of marks. At Merck’s, a leading American chemical corporation, a Robert S. Aries bribed a young chemical engineer to give him information about some of Merck’s most costly drugs. Aries, in turn, sold them to a French company. It took years to ferret out the culprits who were doing the same thing also to other drug manufacturers. The companies won their case in court, but Aries, who was fined more than 20 million dollars, escaped to Paris, where he was able to get patents on these formulas in forty different countries.

    Spy’s Effective “Eyes” and “Ears”

    It is well known that most of the knowledge we acquire we receive through our eyes, and the ‘professional investigators’ make good use of theirs too in stealing information for their clients. For example, an airplane was found hovering suspiciously over the construction site of a multi-million dollar chemical plant where a new product, not as yet patented, was to be produced. The workmen reported the matter to their employer, the Du Pont Corporation, which succeeded in tracking down the photographer and bringing him to court. Ruling in favor of Du Pont, the judge said: “This is a case of industrial espionage in which an airplane is the cloak and the camera is the dagger. . . . One may use his competitor’s secret process if he discovers it by reverse engineering applied to the finished product, or if he discovers it by his own independent research; but one may not avoid these labors by taking the process from the discoverer without his permission at a time when he is taking reasonable precautions to maintain its secrecy.”

    Helicopters are a favorite tool of such spies and so are high-speed cameras with telephoto lenses. A spy may photograph an entire top-level conference from a nearby building with a high-speed camera. What good is such a film? A lipreading expert viewing such a film will be able to reconstruct the entire proceedings!

    Because of the ease with which sound can be recorded, the industrial spy is even more likely to acquire the secret information he desires through the “ears” of modern mini-electronic devices. Today a spy can get a microphone no bigger than a shirt button and amplifiers the size of a fingernail. Or he will use a microphone disguised as a fountain pen, and with which he can pick up conversations a hundred yards away. There is even a recording device that is no bigger than a cube of sugar; it has its own transmitter and batteries and will pick up any conversation within twenty feet and relay it as far as 250 feet away, where it can be picked up by an FM receiver. A spy may tape such a gadget on the bottom of a conference table or hide it in an executive’s desk, its battery lasting days if not weeks. Even an ashtray or a seeming olive in a martini may be an electronic “bugging device,” as they are called.

    Industrial spying truly is “big business ,” and it is but another example of the way this wicked system of things operates. Corporate giants spend large sums of money spying on one another and even larger sums trying to protect themselves from one another’s spies. Being willing to corrupt the employees of their competitors, they are rewarded with grave doubts as to the loyalty of their own employees. If unable to succeed with bribery, a spy may resort to blackmail. A spy will use a charming prostitute to get an employee in a compromising situation and then assure the victim of secrecy if he will cooperate in getting the desired information for his employer’s competitor.

    All such activities call to mind the words of the apostle John: “Everything the world affords, all that panders to the appetites or entices the eyes, all the glamour of its life, springs not from the Father but from the godless world.” ( 1 John 2:16, 17, New English Bible ) The entire matter of industrial spying is but another reason why this present system of things will come to its end at the coming “great tribulation,” to make way for new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell.​— 2 Pet. 3:13 . 9

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