Outsourcing to India faces UK heat
4 Oct, 2006 
LONDON: A leading data protection lawyer, who played a starring role in a forthcoming British television documentary that claims thousands of credit card and passport details of UK customers were sold to a middleman for as little as £ 5 each, has told TOI the "evidence is so compelling" it is bound to trigger an official chain reaction against outsourcing to India. 

Stewart Room, the data protection lawyer who features in the Channel 4 investigation and runs Britainís authoritative National Association of Data Protection Officers, said the "very impressive evidence uncovered by Channel 4 will encourage the UKís Information Commissioner to treat more acutely data protection breaches from outsourcing". 

Room said the documentary, which is sure to cause "any right-thinking person to be deeply concerned about outsourcing to India" was likely to set-off a bolder, brand new and more bullish movement to stem off-shoring. 

Roomís dark predictions came as Britainís largest manufacturing union said it planned to whip up a political storm and turn up the volume on its public "concerns" about poor data protection measures in Indian call centres. 

The grim fallout of the Channel 4 television documentary, 'The Data Theft Scandal', started in the UK on Tuesday, a full 48 hours before it is broadcast. 

In an ominous sign, Silicon.com, UKís net newspaper for IT that receives a staggering three-million page impressions a month, warned that the scale of Channel 4ís revelations meant " Indiaís Nasscom cannot go for a head-in-the-sand approach". 

Silicon.comís Andy McGue pointed out that the new investigation was "just the latest in a string of undercover operations exposing such criminal acts in Indian call centres". 

McGue said the Indian call centre industry needed urgently to "reassure the British customer and stress that it has measures in place to catch perpetrators of such crimes". 

Channel 4 has also hit back at Nasscom for questioning its veracity and motives in undertaking the operation. Channel 4 confirmed receipt of a legal notice from Nasscom asking for a clearer picture of who sold what data to whom. 

In a crucial change to the content of its documentary, it said it planned to include Nasscomís comments in the broadcast. But it added that contrary to Nasscomís claims, the "data (bought and sold by its undercover reporter) was genuine and only in very small amounts". 

It insisted that it was "not encouraging criminal behaviour" and merely trying to draw public attention to "serious failures in Indian call centres". 

Rejecting allegations from a section of the Indian call centre industry that it had played into hands of British "vested interests" opposed to outsourcing to India, Channel 4 said the 12-month-long investigation was undertaken "to find out if it (criminal sale of customersí data) was still happening in India this affects British customers". 

A spokesman for Amicus, the UKís largest manufacturing union, with over one million members in the public and private sectors, said the documentary merely confirms its worst suspicions. 

"We have been consistently warning British employers, the Financial Services Authority and the (British) government that the same level of data protection does not exist in India", Amicus said. 

In a move that experts said could be the start of long, negative campaign to discredit the Indian call centre industry, Amicus said it planned to meet British members of parliament to ask the right questions about the rationale of off-shoring to India. 

Pointing out that Indian off-shoring had lost its membership 2,000 jobs over the years, Amicus said it was angry that this had resulted in less "well managed change" with British workers increasingly seeing their jobs exported to India, whilst Indian call centres increasingly sold sensitive personal data belonging to UK customers. 

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