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UK to probe security of personal data at Indian call centres

Channel 4 sting on Indian BPOs leads to probe by UK into data security. 

October 5, 2006

Even as a data fraud issue is finding space on more and more discussions, the British government has said that it will probe into the security of personal data at Indian call centres. 

A Channel 4 television slot had reported that financial records for hundreds of thousands of Britons were available for purchase, creating a scare. The Deputy Information Commissioner of the UK, David Smith, said that there are reports that call centres of mobile phone companies in India are being targeted by criminals who have on their agenda unlawfully obtaining UK citizens' financial records. This aspect is expected to be the focus of the investigation. 
In case a UK firm uses an outsourced call centre, it will have to ensure that security is adequate. If they do not, a company could be ordered to stop processing personal information outside the UK, Smith added. 

The television programme had said that criminals were shown offering to supply credit card numbers, passwords and other information for very small amounts of money. This has led to the scare that they could supply information on hundreds of thousands of people, obtained from a number of commercial call centres. 

Meanwhile, banking majors are a worried lot about the security of their own operations in India. While Barclays said that its customers and other bank customers regularly needed to supply their bank or credit card account details to pay for goods and services at other call centres, HSBC however announced that its data security had not been breached and no leak of customer data from its operations in India had been reported. 

Data for customers at most major UK banks was offered for sale, although the information was not obtained from bank call centres, but through call centres for certain mobile phone companies, whose customers had provided financial information, say reports. 

In the Indian scenario, it wasn’t business as usual ever since the programme was aired. India’s Nasscom while pointing out that there may have been offences such as this one, said it had filed a report with Kolkata police, an investigation was underway, and it would soon file complaints with police in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Meanwhile, call industry officials in the country are a worried lot voicing concern that the issue could affect new businesses.


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