Thursday 16 September 2010

The tyranny of data protection

Am I the only one to be constantly asked by corporate call centres to prove who I am?

It would be quite understandable, of course, if I had called them – but they are calling me. I got the third of these calls in the last few weeks last night, and it was from British Gas. But I am not, however many times they bleat ‘data protection’ at me, going to tell them my date of birth or any other personal details over the phone. They will be a good deal more certain about who I am than I can be about who they are.

The three calls I had recently were from British Gas asking me to upgrade my insurance (probably genuine), from Barclays offering to repay all my bank charges (probably a fraud) and from Orange offering me a new phone (don’t know).

Either way, I’m going to start asking them to prove who they are. If they can’t tell me my postcode, it is probably a fraudulent fishing trip. It certainly seems to enrage them when I ask them. But it may be of course that they can’t tell me, because they are being watched by their managers, and because it isn’t in the approved script that comes out of their customer relationship management software.

Still, anything I can do to put a spoke in the workings of the great corporate machines that lie behind CRM makes me feel like I have had an effective day – so do feel free to join me. Make them prove who they are.

What is the political lesson of this? I think it is that public versus private is no longer an issue. Public and private are now hopelessly entangled beyond unravelling. The real issue is whether these bodies can relate to me effectively, personally and flexibly, and most of them can’t. They are far too big.

1 comment:

Liberal Neil said...

I similarly refuse to provide such personal details over the phone.

The reaction can be quite amusing :-)