Is It Possible to Trespass on Competitive Websites?

Here's an interesting story:

NOVEMBER 21, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - The other day, our CIO forwarded me an e-mail from our general counsel's office, saying that one of our competitors was accusing us of what amounts to a directed denial-of-service attack. ... The complaint was that we were making excessive requests to the competitor's public Web site, hitting its performance so hard that customers were unable to access it.

It was obvious now that one of our employees had been making connections to our competitor's Web site...Turns out his job is conducting competitive analysis. He uses a tool that lets him monitor all of our competitors' Web sites for changes to content. So, for example, if one of our competitors launched a new product or had a major news release, we would pick this up within an hour of it appearing on the competitor's Web site.

The end of this story shows the "spying" company getting into no trouble at all, which is correct. However, there are simple ways they could've never got caught in the first place:

1.) Use a Web-based application instead of a local-based application. One of the more popular tools for this type of work is Copernic. Problem is, Copernic runs on your machine, so it leads an IP trail wherever it goes. Mind you, I do use Copernic, but not for monitoring, for the reason just described.

2.) Using a Web-based application allows alerts to get sent to an e-mail address. Like any e-mail address. Like an anonymous e-mail address. Just another way to brush away the trail.

3.) And finally, I should mention that one of the best Web-based applications for monitoring competitive website activity is free. If that doesn't convince you, what will?

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