“Indian call centres selling Briton’s personal data”—the headline was everywhere in the websites of Indian media throughout Sunday. While some put the sentence in a quote, implying that someone else was saying it, some others attributed it to a report, without naming if that report was by a reporter in a newspaper or was based on a study by some research agency. And no, none of those which I opened—I did open five of them, belonging to leading media brands—had any quote from any Indian company or NASSCOM.
What was the news? In a story, headlined in second person: Indian call centres selling YOUR credit card details and medical records for just 2p (that all caps YOUR is not mine; it is the original headline), the Daily Mail UK reported that confidential personal data on hundreds of thousands of Britons “is being touted by corrupt Indian call centre workers”. The paper further said that “credit card information, medical and financial records are being offered for sale to criminals and marketing firms for as little as 2p.”
It said that two ‘consultants’, claiming to be IT workers at several call centres, met undercover reporters from The Sunday Times and boasted of having 45 different sets of personal information on nearly 500,000 Britons.
Now, that is explosive news. In an economy where job loss is constantly staring at you—and shifting of call centre jobs is a particularly sensitive issue—it immediately fuels resentment. And those opposing offshoring have a shot in the arms.
Am I sounding too dismissive? Maybe, I am. But here is a question that I would like to pose.
This kind of revelation is not new. In fact, this is very, very old. As long back as in 2005—that is seven years back—the same Daily Mail reported a very similar story, citing similar undercover reporting. “An undercover reporter was sold information on a thousand accounts and the numbers of passports and credits cards for £4.25 each, according to the Sun newspaper,” it reported then.
So, nothing has changed in India in these seven years. Corrupt call centre guys still keep selling personal data of Britons! And companies from there—a lot of them banks—continue to offshore to India!
And how many of their customers have lost millions because of these credit card and bank account data that is being bought from Indian call centres? I guess that number must at least be in thousands, if not in millions!
Time to grow up, for sure!
This is not to say that one is denial of such cases. Not to say that all Indians are saints. Not to say that Indian system is fool-proof.
But that also does not mean that “Indian call centres are selling personal data of Britons”.
It is like saying in the aftermath of Pamela Bordes scandal that Britain’s democracy and press are hostage to escorts and call girls.
It hurts. Right? And as a citizen in a democracy that has borrowed a lot from Britain’s, I will be pained if someone says something like that.
And so am I now, when some undercover reporter manages to lure a couple of guys and a country gets a label like this.