Indian Decade

Cellphone (privacy) invasion

Telemarketers in India have discovered the cellphone. It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Anybody who has owned a cellphone in India knows what the phrase ‘invasion of privacy’ really means. So ubiquitous and omnipresent has the mobile become across much of urban India that it’s without doubt the most effective tool for reaching anybody, anywhere—and unfortunately anytime.

And in the hands of aggressive telemarketers (whose numbers seem to explode by the day) it’s a peace-destroying weapon. With few privacy guidelines in place, it’s normal to get up to 8 or 10 calls a day from companies that want to peddle insurance policies, investment advice or shopping discounts.

A few years back, public interest litigation had resulted in telecom operators having to put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ registry on their websites. Harassed callers could go register their numbers there to save themselves from the annoyance of having to take nuisance calls, (often, it seems, strategically timed to catch you in the middle of peak traffic, when you were going into an important meeting or out watching a movie).

Alas, the DND barely ever works, and registering for it makes little difference. And as if nuisancecalls weren’t bad enough, telemarketers have also discovered the wonder of SMS texting to get our attention. India has to be one of the most evolved SMS markets in the world with the service being so reasonably priced here that it has rendered itself indispensible as a direct marketing tool. So, on top of the phone calls, many of us now get 10 to 15 texts a day telling us we must avail ourselves of this or thatservice or offer.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

In his widely read column for The Hindustan Times, journalist Vir Sanghvi wrote about his own suffering with unsolicited phone calls and messages. It’s an interesting readon the side effectsof our great telecom revolution.