Consumer Data Privacy and British Channel 4 TV Sting Operation

At a recent talk at the North East Supply Chain Conference on Global Sourcing  (I will report with photos of this great conference at Marlborough MA soon), the audience had a great deal of interest in the privacy and IP protection regime and culture in India. I emphasized India’s democracy and free media. Quite simply no other low cost country in both English speaking and so raucously democratic. You" see what you get" in India and you do have the option of going to the media who will willingly lap up your story – if your story  has any elements of interest.

But since all this probably wastes time for managers and the media needs to generate stories Indian media frequently has "sting" operations. However, I was a bit surprised that Britain’s Channel 4 ran a "sting" operation where an individual offered to get customer data through call centers and then aired the "sting" on British TV. Two important points are of interest- first that the British Television Channel was allowed to operate a "sting" operation in India- many countries would not allow such "sting" operations. Secondly, the TV station did not choose to involve local police as media "sting" operations should (as in the US). Despite this the apex association NASSCOM chief has assured that the guilty will be booked- if the particular individual can be traced.

Going by the enormous number of "phishing" emails and very targeted junk snail mail and junk phone calls- I cannot believe that any data is really private whether or not call centers are overseas. In fact, Indian kids see call center jobs as a career and frequently have college degrees unlike the "McDonald" type status and hourly wage call center worker in the developed world.  Frankly, a real call center worker in India has just too much to loose compared to her/his western counterpart. It is not only a career and livelihood but major social disgrace in a very social and contextual culture. I would therefore tend to feel that data is probably more secure in India both because of the social context of the call center worker and the likelihood of real crooks getting hold of the data. Crooks would really have to fiddle around with data in Indian call center customer countries and because of good repatriation treaties between India and customer countries- we can expect some effective deterrence.  This customer privacy question , will however continue to alarm sourcers and would need good management and the implementation stage of different projects.

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