February 17, 2013

France to beef up its business and economic intelligence capability


Par Michael Cosgrove (Membre Mon Figaro) pour le cercle : Le Figaro in English

French companies have belatedly discovered the benefits to be gained by investing in better protection of their corporate interests from foreign interference, and help is now on the way in the form of active government implication.

The French Agency for the Diffusion of Technological Information (ADIT) is the state-owned company which implements national economic and strategic intelligence policy on a practical level. As such it has a pivotal role to play in helping French businesses to protect themselves, and that is why the government has decided to open up its capital funding in order to transform it into what it hopes will be the European leader in its field.

The ADIT and other specialist companies in economic intelligence are an invaluable aid to companies and they routinely carry out vital missions such as checking the backgrounds of candidates for key posts, finding out who the real decision-makers are for international contracts and unearthing sensitive information about company acquisitions and mergers. They also help companies to devise means of protecting secret information and their computer networks.

Companies approve new measures

Economy minister Christine Lagarde announced a string of government measures yesterday to help major French companies to protect themselves from industrial espionage in areas ranging from research to ways of increasing French influence in organizations which determine international business norms and practices. These measures, along with the increased implication of Chambers of Commerce and the largest employers’ union - the MEDEF - were welcomed by businesses.

Strengthening the ADIT is a part of these plans. The ADIT was used with some success to oversee the organization of the French business center in Baghdad, as well as its security, armed escorts for businessmen and emissaries and gathering local business intelligence. This is important in a context where American and British companies have dominated foreign business activity in Iraq up until now.

Anglophone countries also dominate Western business interests in India and Asia thanks to the help of their larger and more experienced economic intelligence companies. But although the task ahead will be difficult, ADIT CEO Philippe Caduc is pleased with the news that “The state is going to open up ADIT capital to the tune of 66% which will make us the European leader in this sector and enable us to compete with the Anglo-Saxons.”

The ADIT will be faced with countering several challenges such as the selling of strategic financial and product information to competitors and the use of social networking sites to create false profiles of people linked with major companies in order to spread false information or collect intelligence. Other tactics include spreading false and damaging rumors concerning a product’s efficiency or safety and blackmail.

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