Late in November 2012, I applied for a new passport booklet. It finally arrived last Wednesday. Just 10 days past the 30-day period indicated on the Passport Seva Kendra website.
Not that terrible; all things considered. In fact, it's a shade better than what used to happen before Tata Consultancy Services took over logistical operations at India's passport offices.
But is TCS using its access to the Passport Seva Kendra's databanks to sell important, personal data to third parties? Here's my experience. You decide.
At 13:38 this afternoon, I got a call from "011-66662928". The lady on the other end identified herself as a salesperson for Tata Insurance. Here's how the conversation went.
Lady: Did you recently apply for a passport?
Me: Yes. I received it last week. What's this about?
Lady: You filled a form where you ticked that you wanted a 'financial help review'.
Me: No. I don't remember filling anything like that.
Lady: Sir, we got this from the Passport Seva Kendra. We were wondering if you wanted travel insurance.
Me: Travel insurance? I never asked for that. You said you're calling from Tata Insurance? How did you get my number?
Lady: Yes sir, from Tata Insurance. We got your number from the form you filled at the Passport Seva Kendra.
Me: I'm telling you I didn't fill any such form and I don't want travel insurance. Thank you.
So, Tata Insurance (if the lady's claims are true) got my mobile number from a Passport Seva Kendra operated by Tata Consultancy Services. It calls me to sell travel insurance. It's a reasonable assumption: someone who renews their passport is likely to be travelling in the future. Why not sell them travel insurance?
But does anyone else think it's totally wrong for TCS to be giving away personal data, especially since I did not authorise them to? My passport application docket has a lot of private, confidential data that should not be in anyone's hands but the right authorities.
- Why is at least some of this being given (sold?) to third parties?
- And why are these third parties calling me even though I'm on the 'National Do Not Call' registry?
Anyone care to answer this? Also, have any of you faced this? Do leave a comment.
---- Update 1 ----
Vinay Kumar replied on twitter saying: The appointment token is designed to trick you.One can opt out from filling the TATA ad by tearing it off. It works
He added: AFAIK feedback part is different from the ad. I tore off the ad and submitted only the feedback. This was in Nov'12.
I received a similar note from Anil Kumar in that same thread saying: Guard at Exit will insist you fill the form, else passport application invalid; i smiled at him and left.
Also, do read the comment left by Balakrishna Kini here
I'm quite sure I did not tick any box saying 'contact me'. If, as has been said, there's a small tab at the bottom of the feedback form to 'opt out' of communication, then it's plain ambush marketing on unsuspecting customers. Still pretty underhanded, in my opinion.
---- Update 2 ----
TCS replied via Twitter to say they "will have this checked"