Thursday, September 30, 2010

Data Privacy in Pakistan

Check the following image.

This is a call information of a customer subscribed to one of the leading cellular services of this country. It contains information regarding customer name, the phone number, all the numbers that the customer dialed, when and for how long. I have edited the information of course.

Now. How did I hack into the Mobilink database and got meself all the confidential data? How many people did I connive with to release this information (which could be yours too)? In fact I got this from the local bread-maker (tandoor wala) who had to give me something to wrap the bread in. Well I was not surprized as earlier, once, I got a central bank inspection report of a financial institution from a paan-wala. He had made small paper bags of it.

Startling? Appears so. Your complete calling record is in open - anyone who wants to exploit something - sellers selling you their ware, some nut case compiling a whole CD of contact numbers and then selling it! social engineers and perhaps terrorists? I get all sorts of items for purchase as spam by sms on my cell phone: travel agents, tuition, medicine, plots and homes etc - even get offers to buy the CD that has all sorts of contact numbers to be used for spamming for Rs.1,000 only. So your number, and all the 'genuine' contacts on this piece of paper have a market of their own and people are willing to pay for it.

Why we Pakistanis are so aloof of information privacy? Well frankly our tele-marketing environment is very nascent in Pakistan. We had, and still have, the good old Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) , the state owned telecommunication company to provide us with the voice services. They still send the customer bill printed on paper, not in envelope, for the view of everyone that is interested in knowing about you. Yes private companies are careful but they will show lax controls in other areas. For example how did a whole bunch of documents related to customer calls lands in restaurants which is a mere 4 months old. We have had instances where call center's representatives 'shared' data with each other and you'd be receiving call from someone who wanted you to subscribe to the latest credit card offering of a financial institution. You might think where the hell did this guy/ gal get my number? The answer lies somewhere in the wrapper that you are holding while munching on the popcorns in it.

Some serious attitude change is required by the Pakistanis. God Help.

1 comment:

Me said...

Well it can be us too, who throw our bills and such information in dustbins without feeling the need to tear it properly.
I remember my mom checking each piece of paper for any names or phone numbers written on it before throwing..