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The Indian IT industry has declared that all employees will have to register on its biometric database, so it can assure its Western clients that their customers' personal data will be protected.

The National Skills Registry (NSR) was set up in January by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), India's government-sponsored IT trade body, to keep an eye on employees in India's $20bn IT industry, who work with data belonging to overseas clients, such as banks.

The decree will be one of the first instructions of the Self Regulatory Organisation (SRO), which Nasscom said would be set up to oversee the data security measures.

Nasscom vice president Sunil Mehta said: "The SRO would subscribe that all members would have all their employees registered in the registry.

"The SRO will prescribe a whole set of best practices, which will include our adherence to global privacy laws in relation to our data processing and outsourcing."

He said Nasscom, in conjunction with one American and one Indian law firm, had already "drawn up the charter for the SRO, including best practices".

The SRO is to establish its credibility by being spun out of Nasscom after a year. The employee database will be operated outside the industry, by National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), which manages India's stock exchange transactions.

Mehta said the rules governing the use of employee data had been drawn up in a joint effort by Nasscom, NSDL and industry. He said it was likely the guidelines would not be published.

Employees' considerations had been taken into account by consulting lawyers, he said. "They don't have a union, but we did focus group discussions to attain their views," Mehta added.

Nasscom said employees get to control the use of their data. "All information is governed by the employee and nothing can be done with it without the employee's consent."

The National Skills Registry is intended to guarantee that employees are who they say they are. But employers have open access to the data and, as well as proving identity, the registry also includes career history, background checks and "verification comments". Employers will also be able to link to the NSR from their HR databases.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber is leading a delegation to Bangalore and Delhi in India today to see what British companies are doing in India and to improve links with Indian trade unions. ®

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