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India to tighten data protection laws

The Indian prime minister has asked for changes in cybersecurity laws, after allegations of a call center data breach.

NEW DELHI--Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked for changes in the country's cybersecurity laws to protect the data in foreign work handled by Indian companies.

In a meeting Wednesday, Singh directed the Department of Information Technology to hasten the process of amending the Indian IT Act to ensure that any breach of secrecy and any illegal transfer of commercial or privileged information is made a punishable offense.

"Indian professionals have built for themselves an enviable global reputation through hard work, dedication and commitment, and the occasional misguided acts of some individuals should not be allowed to damage the high reputation of all professionals," Singh was quoted as saying in a government statement.

Singh reviewed the situation in light of the recent case of alleged sale of customer data by an Indian call center employee to an undercover reporter of British newspaper The Sun last week. Singh said the sting operation may have been directed to give Indian industry a bad name in light of its growing competitiveness.

Karan Bahree, the call center worker who figured in the incident, has reportedly been fired by his employer, Infinity e-search, but has yet to be formally charged by local police. He has been reported missing since the Sun report was published, although he has sent statements to the company.

U.K. authorities have warned banks against possible breaches of the British Data Protection Act after the incident.

In India, the National Association of Software and Service Companies has stressed that "tight data security norms (are) followed by the industry." As a measure of further caution, NASSCOM is building a database of all employees in the business process outsourcing industry. This segment currently employs 350,000 workers.