Jul 30, 2020

Natterbox: How safe is the data you give over the phone?

Neil Hammerton
5 min
Neil Hammerton, CEO of Natterbox, shares the security risks of sharing personal data over the phone...

 How safe is the data you give over the phone?

Breaches of credit card details, passwords or bank account information have sadly been a common occurrence in recent years – 2018 alone saw several major airline companies suffer cyber-attacks leading to thousands of customers falling victim to the theft of their financial details. In an era of ever tighter regulations and increasing pressure, ensuring the safety of customers’ financial data is now a priority.

Incidents, such as (example above) serve to remind companies that just reacting to a cyberattack is dangerous to companies and the customers they serve. The priority must now be on anticipating them by putting in place security plans that will protect the financial information of their customers. At the same time, maintaining a seamless and hassle-free payment experience for the customer must not be overlooked, and although online platforms have mastered the art of connecting security and customer experience, companies remain guilty of forgetting another crucial communication channel – the phone. That’s a mistake, as the phone remains a preferred method of communication for many people, so ensuring a robust payment security strategy for the phone is compulsory.

The majority of phone calls to companies take place in contact centres, which means that they play a crucial role in shaping customers’ perception of a brand, as they are one of the first ports of call for customers to contact when they face issues. Contact centres need to be at the forefront of financial security strategies, implementing measures that will safeguard customers’ financial data.

Adding security systems to a contact centre’s arsenal

Online payment systems already benefit from a high level of security, where payments go through the financial service or bank directly without any input from the company receiving it. Payments made over the phone, on the other hand, are unfortunately lacking the same high level of transparency and security. When customers make payments over the phone, they run a significant risk of divulging their sensitive and personal financial information without knowing what happens to it, how it is used and who has access to it.

For most people, and particularly for older generations, making a payment over the phone is still their preference – so contact centres need a system similar to that used in online platforms to ensure total compliance to regulation and the safety of the personal data of their customers.

To offer the greatest possible level of compliance and to protect both their customers and themselves, it is crucial for companies to equip their contact centres with payment systems that are GDPR-friendly and that will allow customers to connect in a direct and seamless way to the card payment network, in order to make payments while on calls. For instance, such payment systems should enable the customer to type in their credit card details directly through the phone keypad and share that information with the financial service provider straightaway, allowing for the contact agent to be removed out of the equation altogether. At the same time, it is crucial that while they make the payment, customers stay connected with the contact agent through voice at all times to ensure they can flag any issues that arise and complete their payments securely and safely while staying on the call.

Empowering customers and staff with transparency, security and trust

With the recent introduction of GDPR (which imposes heavy fines to companies who do not upgrade their security to meet standards and fail to disclose breaches they fall victim to) and PCI DSS (an information security standard designed for organisations handling branded credit cards from the major card schemes with the goal to reduce fraud), coupled with high-profile hacks, consumers and companies alike are getting more and more concerned about the safety of their personal financial data.

There is not a week that goes by without consumers hearing on the news about a new data breach impacting them and putting their personal data at risk. They hear about those stories and know they might be next on the list of victims – which makes them increasingly worried about what happens to their financial data when they pass it on to companies to make payments over the phone. Consumer trust is now effectively the hardest thing for companies to gain and retain, in the wake of high-profile data breaches. If that trust is breached, customers will not think twice about moving to a competitor to get their services. This creates an imperative for companies to stop holding their customers’ credit card information, so they can remove the risk of it being compromised, and losing customers in the process.

On top of this, empowering companies with the ability to record the calls that take place between them and their customers will enable them to add an extra layer of security and compliance, as it will give companies full transparency and vision on what happens during calls with their customers, as well as how call agents handle the customers’ data that’s given to them over the phone.

Phone security - there’s a lot at stake

The GDPR era is putting on added pressure for companies to comply with good data security practices if they don’t want to suffer significant financial or reputational retributions. Heavy fines aren’t the only thing they need to worry about: they also run the risk of losing customers who decide to switch to rival businesses. Investing in robust and secure phone payment systems to match their online systems is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.  Only then will companies be able to be fully compliant and retain their customers’ trust.

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Jun 17, 2021

Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System

Elise Leise
3 min
Critics claim that new AI emotion-recognition platforms like Taigusys could infringe on Chinese citizens’ rights

In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’. 


Who Will Use the Data? 

As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.


It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens. 


How Does It Work? 

Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse. 


Can We Really Detect Human Emotions? 

This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state. 


In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others. 


Is China the Only One? 

Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous. 


‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU)


Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’. 


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