Indian organization seeks info from TV data theft sting

British Channel 4 refusing to provide info; show airs Thursday

India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) has asked U.K. broadcaster Channel Four Television Corp. to hand over information from a news documentary that it plans to air Thursday evening about alleged data theft in India.

Channel 4's "Dispatches" program will feature the results of a sting operation in which an undercover reporter was offered credit card information for customers of U.K. banks that have outsourced processing work to India. The men offering the information claim to have got it from staff at Indian call centers and business process outsourcing (BPO) operations, according to newspaper reports.

Acting through a law firm, Nasscom has asked Channel 4 to provide it with details of the allegations it plans to air, together with evidence and any other supporting documentation, NASSCOM said. It asked the broadcaster to cooperate "immediately, fully and wholeheartedly" with Indian authorities, to help them prosecute the alleged data thieves in India.

As of late Monday in India, Channel 4 had refused to provide the information, according to Nasscom.

Several sting operations by newspapers and TV channels have attempted to expose faults in the Indian call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) industries.

Last year the U.K. tabloid The Sun reported that its undercover reporter was sold secret information on 1,000 bank accounts by an employee of a call center in Delhi. Indian police said they could not make an arrest unless a formal complaint was made by the cell centers companies involved, the banks or their customers. Some of the banks named in the report said their data had not been compromised.

Nasscom's president, Kiran Karnik, accused such sting operations of goading people into committing crimes that otherwise might not have been committed. Sting operations like the one by Channel 4 sometimes go beyond uncovering wrongdoing and actually induce crimes that are then recorded and aired, he said in a statement Monday. In this case, one of the alleged criminals has said that the data he offered for sale was fake, according to Karnik.

India has had its share of data theft cases, however. Earlier this year, an Indian back-office and customer support operation of the British bank HSBC Bank PLC complained that an employee had stolen confidential data, and used it to defraud 20 of the bank's customers in London to the tune of $425,000.

The employee has been prosecuted by Indian police. HSBC described the incident as a one-off.

Sunil Mehta, vice president of Nasscom, argued that the incidence of data theft and data privacy breaches is lower in India than in the U.K. and the U.S.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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