The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Meddling worry over UK call centre probe

New Delhi, Oct. 7: The business process outsourcing (BPO) business, India’s golden goose and the favourite target of foreign sting operations, is facing another challenge: an investigation by British security agencies of its data protection systems.

Britain has not detailed the nature of the probe but the Indian industry is keeping its fingers crossed on whether it would translate into interference with the BPO operations in the country.

The probe was announced soon after a British television channel showed alleged middlemen, including a person from Calcutta, offering to sell credit card details of Britons.

“It appears that some mobile phone companies’ call centres in India are being targeted by criminals intent on unlawfully obtaining UK citizens’ financial records and this will be the focus of our investigation,” David Smith, Britain’s deputy information commissioner, said in a statement in London.

Smith, whose office is the UK’s independent authority to protect personal information, said if British firms use a call centre, they are required to ensure security is adequate. If they do not, a company could be ordered to stop processing personal information outside the UK, Smith said.

The Rs 10,856-crore BPO industry in India is all for beefing up internal data security measures, but it sees the UK probe as an over- reaction.

“The UK can protest and register complaints with the Indian infotech regulator, but they should not interfere with the country’s security systems in the BPO sector,” said Puneet Kumar, spokesperson for Wipro Infotech.

“Any UK concern on security of personal data needs to be addressed through a formal forum,” said I.B. Mehra, director, TriNet Services.

Earlier this year, the UK Banking Code Standards Board had audited eight Indian call centres and concluded that “customer data is subject to the same level of security as in the UK”.

The Channel 4 programme said data for customers of most major UK banks were offered for sale. The information was not obtained from bank call-centres but through call centres for certain mobile phone companies, whose customers had provided financial information.

“We are comfortable about the security of our own operations in India,” a spokesperson for Barclays said.

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, said no leak of customer data from its operations in India had been shown in the programme.

Mobile phone companies Orange and Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 UK, which run a call centre each in Delhi and Mumbai, said no customer data had been stolen from their centres.

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