Deep Web for Enterprises – what you can learn about competitors and customers (and vice-versa)

This post was written by Darcy Katzman on September 16, 2015
Posted Under: Guest Article,The Deep Web

Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Andreea-roxana Obreja. Andreea graduated from the University of Portsmouth, AndreeaUnited Kingdom with a First Class Honours Degree in Business Information Systems. Her personal interest for covert data and online research have inspired her to author a comprehensive review of the potential of the Deep Web as a business tool for her final year project. The project has been awarded the Clever Touch Prize for the most Original Business Systems Project by the University of Portsmouth. The conclusions of her project will be presented at the 12th Conference of the Italian Chapter of AIS at the Sapienza University of Rome.


We might be using the “Deep Web” every day without calling it this way or even being aware of its existence. Simply filling in a web form enables us to access the Deep Web and retrieve data from a variety of databases, some of which are free, subscription-based or have major access costs attached. Any online data used for business purposes (not necessarily the same purposes for which it has been collected) can be risky, but not knowing what data there is out there about you and your company represents a significantly higher threat. On the other hand, a thorough, Deep Web search can greatly benefit companies researching competitors, potential employees, customers and business trends.

There are various types of data that can be accessed using intermediate technical skills and a few Deep Web Figure 1 - Layers of the Webresources: information customers share about the organisation and its products, information employees share about their jobs, products they are working on and company strategy/policies. More importantly, data aggregated from publicly-available databases can reveal costly, confidential information.

In terms of resources, an initial Deep Web exploration does not imply major investment or require a team of highly skilled IT developers. Freely available tools such as DWT’s Biznar represent an excellent starting point to explore a variety of authoritative business databases for a real-time search. Other subject-specific publicly available search portals include Mednar for medical researchers or WorldWideScience.org for scientific information. This kind of exploration can be learnt and done in-house with minimum resources and can save your company many hours of online searching using traditional search engines. For on-demand searches, constant monitoring of specific databases and alerts, commercial applications such as those powered by Explorit Everywhere! can facilitate the use of a targeted Deep Web search strategy, advise on the content that needs monitoring and provide a unified access point to all the necessary data sources.

Going back to the types of data that might be made visible through Deep Web resources without its owner being aware, currently, intellectual property on the Deep Web is a matter under scrutiny. While traditional search engines might only take into account the big picture, trying to match your search terms in the title, abstract and key words; Deep Web tools can perform fully comprehensive searches. Apart from monitoring your own patents, inventions and discoveries online, this could save your company money by preventing you from becoming a litigation target after mistakenly infringing on other company’s intellectual property rights.

The ubiquitous availability of social media applications and people’s urge to share data have led to extensive concerns in terms of how much data about your company are your employees and customers disclosing. Social media enables the creation of enormous amounts of data which is not easily to search and interpret. Most of this data is stored in dynamical databases which are not indexed by traditional Surface Web search engines. This means that they are part of the Deep Web and sometimes only protected by the individual’s privacy settings. With the right Deep Web tools, anyone can monitor the details that customers share about the products, purchasing experience and the customer’s general attitude towards the organisation. More than monitoring various data sources in isolation, aggregating them can reveal new information or give a renewed meaning to the existing (most of the time, publicly-available) one.  Cautiousness is advised when aggregating data that has been collected by another organisation as its processing might breach data protection regulation.

On the negative side of things, sheltered by a fake username and encouraged by a number of followers, anyone can express an opinion about the organisation on social media which is going to demand a sum of resources to trace, challenge or prove wrong.  More dangerously, the ease of creating and sharing content challenges the employees’ obligation to comply with the company’s non-disclosure policies, making social media sites an ideal source of data about company difficulties, new products or future strategy. Constant monitoring and awareness of these breaches can help the company reinforce policies and put in place contingency plans in order to contain the damages.

Even if you feel that traditional online research tools provide you with all the data necessary to your business activities, Deep Web datasources can no longer be ignored. The Deep Web, and its renowned subset, the Dark Web, is significantly larger compared to the Surface Web and due to its vastness, its content cannot always be monitored or regulated. Being aware of its existence and acquiring technology to monitor your presence and the data about you on it, or to monitor your competitors, might prove beneficial in a market where competitive intelligence is a critical component to success.

Summary based on ‘The business potential of the Deep Web for SMEs’ published as a final year undergraduate project for the University of Portsmouth, UK

 

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