July 06, 2008

life in financial markets: spy dairy

I wrote something for my magazine that pertained to a spying case on a civil rights organisation. I share it below. Spying by companies only reveals their insecurities at being put under the torchlight.

Here is my write-up:

Spy dairy

All hell might not have broken loose after the night of 12 June when a television network in Switzerland broke the story of Nestle hiring a private security firm, Securitas, to infiltrate and spy on the operations of the Swiss chapter of civil campaigns group Attac (www.suisse.attac.org). But a week later Attac filed legal complaints including a civil one with the country's Data Protection Office, and Nestle, though denying the allegations, could face prosecution and penalties.

The lady agent joined Attac, infiltrated a subgroup that was working on a book on Nestle's attitude regarding genetically modified crops and water privatisation and then passed this information to Nestle. In fact, as recent as 23 June, Nestle's CEO, Peter Brabeck was urging European policymakers to cut down their opposition to GM crops.

Nestle's official response has only been to say that it hired Securitas to protect its office and staff during the G-8 summit of world leaders on 1-3 June 2003. Attac counters this by saying the subgroup on the book started work only in autumn of 2003 and that the lady agent's surveillance continued till the summer of 2004.

Espionage is not new to corporate world and spying on civil groups is not new either. For instance, in June 2001, The Sunday Times of London had a front page top story on how BP and Shell had hired Hakluyt, a consultancy firm started by former M16 officials, to get inside details of Greenpeace's plans to take on oil giants. It was successful in thwarting.

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