Although coworking spaces are known for their encouragement of intermingling, networking, and collaboration, the risk of losing intellectual property or talent due to spying has risen tremendously.
A 2018 report by security software company McAfee found that economic espionage through hacking costs the U.S. economy $600 billion a year. Now, companies are taking extra precautions to avoid being vulnerable to online threats, but that does not do away with the potential to infringe on secrecy in person.
“People are mixing together in ways they never have before,” said Cam Mackey, the executive director of Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). “And there are very few safeguards that aren’t about stuff that goes through a server.”
The SCIP is a trade organization of licensed competitive intelligence professionals, or in other words, corporate spies who are hired to unearth information on competitors. Mackey said that while the company prohibits workplace eavesdropping, he admits that “someone is going to say something intentionally or otherwise that they really shouldn’t.”
Industrious, one of the nation’s largest coworking operators, tackled this issue early on in its history since many of its clients include government and military contractors and large banks. It designed security protocols for online networks and included private offices to offset its open workspaces.
While other shared workspace providers include a privacy clause in their coworking agreements, smaller firms may not address this topic accordingly.