CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information
Washington, D.C. – Thursday, December 15, 2011 – The Communications Workers of America today released a sobering report detailing the linkage between the off-shoring of call center jobs and a range of serious negative effects on U.S. consumers and job seekers, including placing consumers’ personal information at risk.
The report details specific instances of fraud directly related to employees at overseas call centers, the lack of national legal safeguards to protect personal information in these locations, the loss of Constitutional protection for consumers’ personal data once it leaves U.S. shores and the recent trend of “sub-outsourcing” former Indian-based call center work to even cheaper foreign labor markets.
The report further underscores the importance of the bi-partisan legislation introduced in Congress last week that would ban taxpayer dollars in the form of federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs overseas.
“If American companies insist on taking American jobs overseas, American taxpayers should not be subsidizing corporate greed,” said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins. “This report spotlights not only the risks of a consumer’s personal information floating around foreign call centers, but the fact that a U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights preventing the illegal search and seizure of his or her data evaporate once it leaves the country.”
Collins noted that though India passed new data privacy laws this year, the Indian government specifically exempted outsourcing companies from having to comply.
“Even worse, in the Philippines, where a significant amount of Indian work has been sub-outsourced, there are virtually no data protection laws, including data breach notification laws,” Collins said.
Key findings of the report include:
- When a U.S. customer’s financial information is sent overseas, it loses the protections of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As long as an individual’s data is not specifically “targeted,” the data can be collected and analyzed by U.S. federal agencies without a warrant.
- The documented security hazards are in addition to the damage caused to individuals and communities in the United States by the movement of local call center jobs overseas, off-shoring that often comes after taxpayer-funded dollars and other incentives are heaped upon the corporation.
- As of this year, the Philippines surpassed India as the top destination for U.S. companies off-shoring call center jobs. American companies also have opened call centers in countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Mexico.
- Americans’ personal data also is at risk in foreign call centers in the relative difficulty in providing background checks on employees. Many foreign nations do not maintain central criminal databases and do not have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, with one estimate putting the cost at up to $1,000 per employee.
The “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act,” co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Dave McKinley (R-WV) and introduced December 8, would also require call center employees to disclose their location to U.S. consumers and transfer that call to a U.S.-based center if requested by the consumer, as well as require that a list of companies that off-shore their call center work be made available to the public.
“Huge corporations are pocketing U.S. taxpayer dollars, then taking call center jobs overseas, leaving it up to foreign laws and governments to police and catch criminals who want to steal from American consumers,” Collins said. “All the while, people may not even know their personal data is entrusted to someone on the other side of the ocean.”
Link to full report:
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