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Call centre compliance and the legislative minefield

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There are many reasons for recording calls and not all of them involve nefarious activities. One such reason is for businesses to evaluate how effective their call centre employees are, but that doesn’t come without legislation, writes MATTHEW BALCOMB, CEO of CallCabinet Southern Africa.

There are many compelling reasons for recording phone calls, not all of which involve nefarious activities, a super villain and a spy with a licence to kill, or shoring up evidence for the Jerry Springer Show for that matter. In the call centre environment of the corporate world, call recording simply makes good business sense.

The practice allows business to evaluate how effective its call centre employees are at satisfying customer queries and complaints, to analyse protocols for the purpose of improvement, and even to ensure continued compliance. If the movies and Jerry Springer have taught us anything however, then it’s that anything you say can and will be held against you. It’s hardly surprising then that the phrase “This call may be recorded” has the power to strike fear into the hearts of callers.

Good business sense and customer suspicions aside however, is call recording strictly legal in South Africa? There is no simple path to finding that answer. Instead it’s a legislative minefield, but one that ultimately reveals that call recording is not illegal, provided that you narrowly follow the letter of the law(s).

The Laws Governing Call Recording

Here’s where it gets interesting. There’s no single law governing the recording of calls in a call centre environment. Instead the act of determining whether you may record and how to do it in such a way that your business remains compliant, protects the customer’s privacy, and stays squarely within the bounds of the law, is a quest of Tolkien-like proportions.

The Constitution

We begin our journey with the South African Constitution, section 14 of which states that “Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have the person or their home searched; their property searched; their possessions seized; or the privacy of their communications infringed.” If you were to stop there, notwithstanding the fact that the constitution does go on to say that such rights are limited in terms of law, the answer to the question of call recording would be a resounding ‘no’. Fortunately we don’t stop there.

RICA

The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information (RICA) Act 70 of 2002, is an asset to business on this particular quest. Chapter 2, Part 1, Section 4 of the act states that “Any person, other than a law enforcement officer, may intercept any communication if he or she is a party to the communication, unless such communication is intercepted by such person for purposes of committing an offence.”

Section 5 takes this further with its edict that “Any person, other than a law enforcement officer, may intercept any communication if one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent in writing to such interception, unless such communication is intercepted by such person for purposes of committing an offence.”

Section 6 shores this up with its pronouncement that “Any person may, in the course of the carrying on of any business, intercept any indirect communication (a) by means of which a transaction is entered into in the course of that business; (b) which otherwise relates to that business; or (c) which otherwise takes place in the course of the carrying on of that
business, in the course of its transmission over a telecommunication system.

It’s clear then that on the grounds of the business being a party to that call, that party is indeed permitted to intercept that call.

POPI

Things would now appear to be nicely cut and dried, except for the entry of The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act of 2013 into the fray. POPI is a complex act that does exactly as its name implies. From the outset it identifies that its purpose, inter alia, is to “regulate the manner in which personal information may be processed, by establishing conditions, in harmony with international standards, that prescribe the minimum threshold requirements for the lawful processing of personal information.”

It goes on to clarify that “processing” means any operation or activity or any set of operations, whether or not by automatic means, concerning personal information, including (a) the collection, receipt, recording, organisation, collation, storage, updating or modification, retrieval, alteration, consultation or use; (b) dissemination by means of transmission, distribution or making available in any other form; or (c) merging, linking, as well as restriction, degradation, erasure or destruction of information.

The act furthermore addresses call recordings directly under its definition of ‘record,’ which includes among others, this description: “information produced, recorded or stored by means of any tape-recorder, computer equipment, whether hardware or software or both, or other device, and any material subsequently derived from information so produced, recorded or stored.”

POPI is nothing if not thorough, and in order to be compliant, organisations must ensure they adhere strictly to the multitudinous provisions for the proper and legal processing of personal information.

Section 18 is particularly relevant in the call recording context and addresses such criteria as stating clearly to customers the purpose of recording their call. A simple “This call may be recorded for quality purposes” will not suffice if that recording is to be legitimately used for any purpose other than quality control. To add another layer of complexity, that section requires, among many other such requirements, that the customer be advised of their right to object to such processing (recording). This implies that the call centre must have the functionality to allow individuals to opt out of such processing without abandoning the call.

“But wait, there’s more…”

If that weren’t enough to make your head spin, there are moreover additional laws that impact the call centre. Among others, these include the consumer protection, recordkeeping and data security requirements entrenched in the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act, the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), demanding significant changes to communications and IT infrastructure, operations, policies and procedures.

Bring in the big guns

Running an efficient and secure call centre that uses the best technologies and delivers on your business needs, while ensuring compliance and being strictly legal has become an increasingly difficult task to accomplish in-house. That’s where we come in. CallCabinet is a leading developer of innovative, flexible and cutting-edge cloud and premise-based call recording solutions. We have extensive experience providing affordable enterprise voice recording and call logging solutions, and solutions that are uniquely suited to South African companies in the context of this new regulatory and business landscape.

CallCabinet will help your business navigate a successful path through the legislative minefield to achieve a call centre that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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