More than 34,000 workers from a third of India’s outsourcing companies have volunteered to join a national database that will save their fingerprints and scan their past, as the industry imposes tough norms to prevent data theft.
In under three months, an industry-backed body called the Self-Regulatory Organisation is to begin work, enforcing what its officials say are some of the toughest data protection standards anywhere in the world.
But most of India’s outsourcing employees — 400 companies in the sector have 5,45,000 workers — are still to decide whether to volunteer for the stringent checks required for the National Skills Registry (NSR). It is the first measure of its kind in the outsourcing business, worldwide.
All that is part of a crackdown by the industry, which has access to crucial personal and professional information about tens of thousands of customers across the world, to prevent data theft. “We have seen about five to seven reported cases of data theft in the past 12 to 18 months reported in India, none of them on the scale seen in other countries where hundreds of thousands of records have been compromised,” said Nandkumar Saravade, director of cyber security and compliance at the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). Saravade is an Indian Police Service officer on deputation with the industry body.
As part of the NSR, employees at several companies have already registered six fingerprints each in portable biometric machines brought to their workplace. Background checking agencies have sent investigators to schools, colleges and former offices, part of a massive database being built by the Mumbai-based National Securities Depository Limited.
“Guards frisk everyone at the door. Cellphones with cameras are completely banned and only senior staff can take any kind of mobile phones inside,” said a manager at a top call centre in Gurgaon, who declined to be named.
Personal laptops, pen drives and other data storage devices are banned. There is no e-mail access at work stations. Surveillance cameras keep a close watch, including in the locker rooms. Agents have no pen and paper to prevent anyone from taking down any personal information.