University of Bath

Corporate and police spying on activists undermines democracy

An IPR Policy Brief examining how companies such as Nestlé and McDonald’s use covert methods to gather intelligence on activist groups and evade accountability.

The exposure of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy, in the environmental direct action movement, revealed how the state monitors political campaigns. The research of Dr Eveline Lubbers, University of Bath, reported in her book ‘Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark’, examines a related grave threat to our political freedoms – undercover activities by corporations. Based on exclusive access to previously confidential sources, this research shows how companies such as Nestlé, Shell and McDonald’s use covert methods to gather intelligence on activist groups, counter criticism of their strategies and practices, and evade accountability. Corporate intelligence gathering has shifted from being reactive to proactive, with important implications for democracy itself. Cooperation between the government and corporate intelligence in such secret operations is a seriously neglected field of research.