If Cara Schaffer contacts you, be wary. Take emails and online comments from "activist2008" and "stopcorporategreed" with a grain of salt. Londoners, be on the lookout for Toby Kendall, a.k.a. "Ken Tobias." And activists everywhere should think twice before putting documents in the recycling or trash bins.
Over the past week, reporters and activists outed three different corporate spying operations. As John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote in their 1995 book "Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!": "Movements for social and political reform have often become targets of surveillance. ... The public relations industry has developed a lucrative side business scrutinizing the thoughts and actions of citizen activists, using paid spies who are often recruited from government, military or private security backgrounds."
Last week's revelations show that these underhanded tactics are very much in use today. And they don't just impact the groups being infiltrated. By privileging corporate interests, effectively giving them the first and last word on an issue, they distort vital public debates.