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Informer vs. Spy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 12, 2023
Informer is a person who provides information, often secretly, about someone to an authority. Spy is a person who secretly collects and reports information on the activities, movements, and plans of an enemy or competitor.

Key Differences

An informer is typically someone who provides information about others, often to an authority or law enforcement, sometimes for personal gain or safety. A spy, however, is usually employed or tasked by a government or organization to secretly gather information about an enemy or competitor.
Informers may simply relay information they come across, often as a one-time or occasional action. Spies engage in ongoing, covert operations to gather intelligence, often requiring training and special skills.
Informers are not necessarily affiliated with any intelligence organization and may act independently. Spies are usually aligned with a government or organization and are loyal to their cause or mission.
While both roles involve secrecy, spying is generally considered more dangerous, involving a higher level of subterfuge and risk. Informers may face danger but typically less than spies.
Informers may pass on information through less formal channels and might not use advanced techniques. Spies often use sophisticated methods, technologies, and strategies to acquire and transmit information.

Comparison Chart

Primary Role

Providing information, often secretly
Secretly collecting intelligence


May not be aligned with an organization
Usually aligned with a government/organization

Risk Level

Varies, often lower than spying
High, involves significant danger

Method of Operation

Less formal, may not require training
Often requires training and sophisticated methods

Frequency of Action

Can be a one-time action or occasional
Involves ongoing, continuous operations

Informer and Spy Definitions


A person who provides information to an opposing or controlling group.
The informer collaborated with the detectives.


A person skilled in espionage.
The spy transmitted confidential documents.


Someone who secretly gives information.
The informer tipped off the police about the plan.


A person employed to obtain secret information.
She was a spy for a foreign government.


A person who provides a tip or information to an authority.
An anonymous informer alerted the authorities.


Someone who operates in secret within an organization.
The spy posed as an employee.


Someone revealing wrongdoing within an organization.
The informer exposed corruption in the company.


An agent who works under cover.
As a spy, his identity was always concealed.


Informally, someone who tells on others.
He was known as the school's informer.


A person who secretly gathers information.
The spy infiltrated the enemy's ranks.


An informant, especially one who informs against others for compensation.


One who secretly collects information concerning the enemies of a government or group.


One who informs someone else about something.


One who secretly collects information for a business about one or more of its competitors.


A person who tells authorities about improper or illegal activity.


One who secretly keeps watch on another or others.


One who informs, animates, or inspires.


To watch or observe secretly
Was sent to spy out the enemy camp.


One who informs, animates, or inspires.
Nature, informer of the poet's art.


One who informs, or imparts knowledge or news.


One who informs a magistrate of violations of law; one who informs against another for violation of some law or penal statute.


One who reveals confidential information in return for money


Is an informer always a traitor?

Not necessarily. Informers can act for various reasons, not always involving betrayal.

Can anyone be an informer?

Yes, anyone who provides information to an authority can be considered an informer.

Are spies always associated with governments?

Mostly, but spies can also work for private organizations or corporations.

Do spies have legal protection?

In their own countries, they might, but internationally, they often operate without legal protection.

What happens if a spy is caught?

If caught, a spy can face severe penalties, including imprisonment or execution, depending on the country.

Are spy activities always secret?

Yes, the nature of spying is inherently secretive and covert.

Do spies always work internationally?

Not always. Spies can operate both domestically and internationally.

Is being an informer illegal?

It depends on the context and nature of the information shared.

Are informers protected by law?

In some cases, especially whistleblowers, they can be protected under the law.

How do spies communicate?

Spies use various covert methods, including coded messages, secret meetings, and secure technology.

How are spies trained?

Spies are often trained in surveillance, intelligence gathering, and sometimes in combat.

Can informers work for personal gain?

Yes, some informers provide information for personal gain or protection.

Is it common for informers to face retaliation?

Yes, informers can face retaliation, especially in cases of exposing criminal activities or corruption.

Can informers remain anonymous?

Often, informers can choose to remain anonymous, especially when tipping off authorities.

What motivates someone to become a spy?

Motivations can include patriotism, ideology, financial gain, or coercion.

Do informers receive compensation?

Sometimes, especially in cases involving criminal investigations or intelligence gathering.

Do spies work alone?

They can work alone or as part of a larger network or agency.

Why do people become informers?

Reasons vary, including coercion, money, protection, or moral conviction.

Can a spy have a normal life?

It can be challenging due to the secretive and risky nature of the job.

How do authorities verify information from an informer?

Authorities often corroborate the information through investigation or additional sources.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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