SeaWorld recently admitted that it sent out people on its payroll to infiltrate People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA. PETA and SeaWorld have been in a long-running battle with PETA claiming that SeaWorld is cruel to animals and SeaWorld claiming it isn't.
According to Mashable, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby said that he would stop the practice, but that the company had done it to ensure the safety of its guests and employees.
Granted, PETA doesn't have a stellar reputation when it comes to dealing with people they disagree with, but did they deserve to be spied on, and was it even legal?
PETA alleges that one of the SeaWorld employees encouraged illegal behavior, such as making threats against SeaWorld itself. If this is the case, this is different from someone simply gathering information and moves into the realm of sabotage.
Is this a threat for your business? Probably not a huge threat, but absolutely your competitors want to know what's going on. Here's how you can protect yourself.
Before you hire someone, don't skimp on the background check. Don't just say, "This person is fabulous! I need him onboard today!" and run the background check later. What are you looking for? A job history that doesn't make sense. Does this person have a gap in his or her job history that's unexplained? That could be someone trying to hide that current employment.
Additionally, if you're at all concerned, look up phone numbers yourself and talk to people you know through your network.
Beware the nonprofit loophole.
One of the differences between the SeaWorld-PETA battle and a battle between your company and a competitor is that PETA is officially a nonprofit organization. What difference does that make? It can have volunteers. For-profit companies cannot.
This means that it's extremely doubtful that PETA ran any sort of background check on volunteers who came from SeaWorld. Why would it? The volunteers aren't getting paid and they aren't employees. But if they are representing your organization, you need to know who they are. Sure, the people who come for a clean-up-the- neighborhood day are fine, but spend a bit more to know who has access to your offices and social media
Monitor social media.
There's a big difference between stalking your employees and monitoring chatter about your business. You need to be aware of all hashtags, mentions, photos, and whatever else is related to your business. If you see negative stuff getting out there that shouldn't be public, you may have a spy. Don't waste time investigating.
Unless you're a controversial organization, it's doubtful anyone is out to get you. Most people want to do their jobs and go home, and most companies just want to make a product and sell it. Don't go peering around the corner thinking that a spy is around every bend. But if you notice something that doesn't make sense, act.