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Rusty Weston and Keith Dawson
Rusty Weston and Keith Dawson
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Shining Light On Privacy Policies

Business and consumer customers are both dissatisfied with and wary of offshore call centers, according to a new Managing Offshore and Call Center Magazine study. Managing Offshore editor Rusty Weston and Call Center editor Keith Dawson team up to analyze the implications of the data for global-sourcing companies.

If you read a few dozen corporate privacy policies, you may be excused for believing that the same guy who drafts the fine print in rental-car contracts wrote these while moonlighting. There is some truth to that notion: It's easy to find boilerplate privacy forms on the BBB OnLine site. These policies generally are so vague—and cookie-cutter in style—it appears that they exist to give attorneys wiggle room if the disclosure is ever challenged in court.

The premise of our review of privacy statements by companies engaged in outsourcing of various kinds (they don't in all cases offshore customer data to third parties) is to determine how these firms handle the concept of customer disclosure. What policy language is the state of the art? Which statements need a serious policy review?

E-Loan is the only U.S. site we could find that not only discloses the offshoring of customer data but actually gives consumers the choice to opt in or opt out. E-Loan's privacy statement features a section called: Does E-Loan Use An Overseas Service Provider?. The section states that "E-Loan may use trusted third-party service providers located overseas for processing of your loan. ... You may opt out of overseas third-party processing." With that simple disclosure statement, E-Loan vaults itself into the avant garde of "transparent" corporations (for more on this concept, read Don Tapscott and David Ticoll's book, The Naked Corporation). E-Loan's document is an informed-consent policy wholly unlike the vast majority of corporate privacy statements that imply, "We're a household name and we will never betray your trust."

Perhaps the nation's most highly regarded corporate privacy policy belongs to eBay, the billion-dollar online marketplace. In June, eBay scored highest for trust in a survey of 6,300 consumers conducted by TRUSTe and the Ponemon Institute. EBay's privacy statement is closely tied to an area on its Web site called Privacy Central, which does a fine job of explaining the company's core privacy principles to its community members. To our surprise, the privacy statement mentions the word "outsource" at one point in a section called "Internal service providers for our operations."

The section, located here, is one of the more transparent disclosures you will see. "We may use third parties that we refer to as internal service providers to facilitate or outsource one or more aspects of the business, product and service operations that we provide to you (e.g., search technology, discussion boards, bill collection, affiliate and rewards programs, co-branded credit cards) and therefore we may provide some of your personal information directly to these internal service providers." That's a comprehensive sentence and we applaud eBay in every way except one: It fails to mention that eBay taps captive and outsourced customer-service centers in Dublin, Ireland, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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