GURGAON, India — British police sought help from Interpol on Friday, after a newspaper reported that one of its undercover reporters bought personal data on 1,000 British customers from an Indian call center employee.
Karan Bahree, an employee at Infinity eSearch, a web designing company in Gurgaon, a New Delhi suburb that has become a hub of outsourcing companies, did not report to work Friday but denied any wrongdoing.
Bahree "says he is innocent ... he told us that he was only trying to make a presentation to someone," said Deepak Masih, lawyer for Infinity eSearch. The company said it had nothing to do with the scandal, and that it had given Bahree, on probation for three months in the company, until Friday evening to formally explain his role.
"Yesterday he was in office and left at 5:30 when all of us left. He didn't come to work today," said Rahul Dutta, the Infinity managing director.
Also Friday, British police sought help from Interpol.
"We face (a) jurisdiction issue. We cannot charge anybody in India. So we are working through the Interpol so that Indian police can speak to the people involved," London Police spokeswoman Orna Joseph told the private NDTV news channel.
India's information technology minister said the government would not intervene.
"It is a matter between a company and its employees. It is also a subject matter between the call center company and the company which has given this contract," Communications and IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran told reporters.
The allegations have put India's money-spinning outsourcing industry _ with the largest share of call center business in the world _ into a corner over whether the customer data it has access to is safe.
The Sun newspaper said it paid 3.00 pounds ($5.40) each for details on the Britons' bank accounts, credit cards, passports and drivers' licenses, including numbers and pass codes. Addresses and phone numbers were also included, the tabloid said.
The Sun said the New Delhi-based seller said he had bought the information from contacts who work in the call centers, one of the fastest growing segments of India's economy.
Scores of Western firms farm out office functions such as telemarketing, call center operations, payroll accounting, and credit card processing to companies in countries such as India, where wages are low and skilled professionals are abundant.
Bahree reportedly also provided three-digit security numbers from the backs of credit cards and customers' answers to security questions meant to safeguard their accounts.
The National Association of Software and Service Companies or NASSCOM, the leading Indian trade group, said it would work with authorities to make sure any criminal activity was prosecuted. It said Indian companies took data protection extremely seriously and were raising protection standards even further.
NASSCOM has said it will compile information on outsourcing industry employees in a central database in a bid to prevent criminals from getting jobs in the sector and threatening the data security of global companies.
A few other cases of data theft have been reported earlier. The most notable was in April, when police arrested three former call center employees and nine of their associates in the western city of Pune on charges that they misused financial data and illegally withdrew money from the accounts of New York-based Citibank customers.
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