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December 16, 2011

Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

-- by Dave Johnson

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of people they employ, and for ways to reduce the pay and benefits for the ones they keep. One way they have been doing this is to send jobs out of the country to places where the people don't have the protections of democracy. Then they come back here and threaten the rest of us with losing our jobs, too, if we don't give in. We have to find ways to restore the protections of democracy.

We are all familiar with "offshoring." This is the process of packing up a factory or office, and moving what it does outside of the US to places where people are paid less -- usually because they don't have any say in how their country is run (a.k.a. democracy). Then the company brings the same products or services back to the US and calls that "trade." Allowing this to happen makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

One (more) job that has been offshored is call centers. We call to place an order or to get customer service, etc., and the person we talk to is in another country and we can't understand them. This is frustrating, but it is even more frustrating when you think that this is one more job that someone here used to do.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new bill called The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that would help bring call-center jobs back to the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I explained,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead.

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

From the press release, CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information,

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.

… 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.
  • This is one more way that offshoring is hurting us. By sending call-center jobs out of the country we are sending the data we give to those call centers out of the country and outside of the protection of our laws. So this call-center bill, named The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3596) is important to us. It is bipartisan, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Call your own member of Congress and let them know that you support this.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at December 16, 2011 11:41 AM


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