Bloomberg: India’s H-1B Companies Urge Loose Privacy Rules in Pandemic

Tourists wear facemasks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, near Taj Mahal in Agra on March 5, 2020. - More than 95,000 people have been infected and over 3,200 have died worldwide from the new coronavirus, which by on March 5 had reached some …
PAWAN SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

India’s outsourcing companies are pushing their Fortune 500 clients to relax non-disclosure and other privacy rules as the Indian government shuts down workplaces to curb the spread of China’s Wuhan virus. reported March 23:

Infosys Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and other Indian firms that employ more than four million people in tech hubs such as Bengaluru, are also requesting that their clients relax non-disclosure and other privacy rules so that employees who must stay at home during the lockdown can still do their jobs.

On Sunday, India’s government imposed the nationwide lockdown. “Companies in India are scrambling to ensure that the millions [of employees] who staff the back offices of Wall Street banks and take on work outsourced by firms from airlines to insurers can keep going,” says the report at

The Indian employees usually work hand-in-glove with the roughly 1 million Indians contract workers who are located in the United States. The 1 million U.S.-based Indian workers hold work permits via a plethora of white-collar visa programs, including the H-1B, Occupational Practical Training, L-1, B-1, H4EAD, and TN programs.

U.S. investors and CEOs use Indian subcontracting companies to import the Indian workers to take over many Americans’ college jobs and to send the work back to teams of Indians in India — regardless of the laws barring national discrimination against American workers.

India’s government has quickly exempted its huge outsourcing industry from much of the epidemic shutdown.

“The support that the government in India is extending to the IT industry, including granting exceptions from the lockdown, for key personnel delivering essential and mission-critical services to our clients, is going a long way in helping us be purposeful,” said a statement from U.B. Pravin Rao, a top executive at Infosys.

The Wuhan disease is spreading rapidly through the poor and crowded country of 1.3 billion. India’s government has tried to curb the spread by barring workers from their commutes and jobs and is only allowing employees in essential services to commute into work.

That policy means that millions of Indians cannot get to their offices to work as long-distance subcontractors for U.S. banking, insurance, travel, transport, and technology companies.

In response, the U.S. and Indian companies have been using their shared trade association, Nasscom, to lobby the government to get their Indian-based subcontractors back to work.

“Unfortunately, most of these mission critical services cannot be processed outside of the highly secure work premises. Hence, it is important to ensure governments enable the … sector to function as essential services and keep those critical services operational,” Nasscom said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.

Despite the exemptions given to Nasscom companies, many of the outsourcing workers are stuck at home — both in Indian and in the United States.

The task of getting the home-based Indian employees back into their contract jobs is difficult, said Nasscom officials. “Moving millions of desktops to employees’ homes, configuring software to allow for slower bandwidth and ensuring cybersecurity – it’s a mind-boggling physical and logistical exercise that our companies are in the midst of right now,” Keshav Murugesh, chairman of Nasscom, told Bloomberg.

“India’s IT industry has moved nearly two thirds of its 4.36 million workforces to work from home,” according to India’s India Times newspaper. “The $150 billion industry that primarily services overseas clients is allowing these workers to build software and maintain them for clients from remote locations.”

But the Indian contractors and the U.S. companies are required by U.S. law to protect Americans’ private data on secure networks. The protected information includes data about Americans’  personal finances and health problems, as well as company marketing data, Bloomberg noted:

Privacy is also an issue, with the prospect of millions of workers processing sensitive data from home. Outsourced work from the world’s largest banks, insurers, airlines and retailers are governed by strict non-disclosure agreements. Many companies don’t allow employees to even carry their phones in the workplace for fear of compromising clients’ confidentiality clauses, and restrict access to certain areas to only those working on the project.

Many of the privacy rules agreements are entangled in federal law, such as the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which strictly guards data about Americans’ health.

In response, the Indian companies are lobbying Americans companies to relax enforcement of privacy rules, Bloomberg said.

Infosys Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and other Indian firms that employ more than four million people in tech hubs such as Bengaluru, are also requesting that their clients relax non-disclosure and other privacy rules so that [Indian] employees who must stay at home during the lockdown can still do their jobs.

Elsewhere, many Indians are objecting to Nasscom’s demand for its workers to be exempt from India’s shutdown, according to the India Times:

But as Covid-19 continues to disrupt daily life forcing lockdowns across the globe, workers of Indian IT services firms took to social media platforms complaining of employers’ insistence that they come to office. These employees also posted internal emails to support their claim.

On a ‘IT Confessions’ Facebook page, an employee from a technology company had anonymously said: “Management of our process has decided to split the staff 50% in general shift and 50% in night shift…My name is not under the list of staff

Over the last two years, American professionals have organized to lobby against the H-1B program via the American Workers CoalitionU.S. TechWorkers, and ProUSworkers. The new TechsUnite.US site was created to help U.S. graduates anonymously collaborate while shielded by encryption.

In turn, these groups are backed up by a few sites that track the scale and location of the outsourcing industry in each legislator’s district.  Other sites document the conflicts created by diverse foreign business practices in the United States. The non-political site also provides much information about H-1B outsourcing and green card rewards in multiple industries.

The U.S.-India Outsourcing Economy is the core of the Indian’s ramshackle economy, much of which consists of subsistence farmers and family-run retails stores.

Nasscom claims it has almost $100 billion in outsourcing work and earned roughly $150 billion in revenues during 2019. The companies claimed to employ 4.4 million Indians, including “884,0o0 digitally skilled” workers.

Bloomberg provided a shortlist of the many companies that have moved white-collar and pink-collar jobs from American and Europeans into India. For example, 20,000 Indians work for Barclays bank, 10,000 work for Deutsche Bank, 30,000 work for JPMorgan, and 60,000 work for the Union Bank of Switzerland, better known as UBS.

“We are working with over 1000 organizations across the world to keep them up and running.” said a March 24 statement from Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO at Tata Consultancy Services. He continued:

We power financial backbones of several countries, support some of the largest health care and pharmacy companies in the world, run technology for governments and public services organizations … We launched a massive program to ensure business continuity using our Secure Borderless Work Spaces infrastructure which allows TCS associates working from home, both onshore and offshore, ensure business continuity with support from minimal associates working from offices.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC, or email the author at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.