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Near the end of a recent Webex meeting a senior ("decision-maker" level) customer contact unintentionally started sharing his Outlook inbox, including details of meeting requests from a competitor of my company.

How should I, as a vendor representative, react to this? The gaffe didn't go on for long, but I did receive information that I don't believe I would (or should) have been shown intentionally.

Do I have any legal (US) obligations as a result of this situation, or if it should occur again in future?

Can I use this information internally to benefit my company?

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    Can I use this information internally to benefit my company? - Don't do that.
    – Brandin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:38
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    Sounds like a classic case of insider knowledge. IANAL, but that idea doesn't sound good. Really not. Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:44
  • From a pragmatic level, are we talking hypotheticals or would you actually be able to use this flash of information for competitive advantage?
    – Myles
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 15:38

3 Answers 3

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Ask yourself one question:

If you made the same mistake, would you expect somebody to profit on it?

I hope you would say "no." So do not. Ignore the mistake.

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    +1, and the OP should always be assuming the decision maker has already's done meeting with is competitor anyway, and I dont talk the case that maybe the decision's maker intentionally did that mistake to test the OP
    – yagmoth555
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 4:32
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Legal questions are out of scope.

Would NOT be good ethics to share or use the information.

How valuable would that information be anyway? So a meeting request from competitor.

Now if you came across a price quote from a competitor that would be valuable. But it would also be even less ethical to use.

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Ethically, he was wrong not to have been more protective of what sensitive information you saw, but the cat is out of the bag, so the real question is: What should you do about it?

You'd have to look at your company's ethics policy, but I'd have to guess that full discosure to all involved of what you were shown is in everyone's best interest. If your employer has an ethics board, you should seek their guidance, if not, go to your management.

In the grand scheme of things, what you saw may be insignificant, but you should consider how it would look after the fact in front of a jury or subjected to similar scrutiny. Let's say that your company is awarded a large contract from that customer and someone from your competitor discovers that you were shown things you shouldn't have and the competitor sues. Even though the actual content revealed didn't actually have any bearing on their decision, the fact that you had seen information about the competitor and NOT disclosed it would look suspect at best.

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