Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Know Who I Am, But Who Are You?

I received a strange phone call yesterday. It’s one I’d imagine many of us will have, or at least, should be having over the next few years.

I was called by someone from a company who said they were acting on behalf of Orange, and that due to my customer loyalty I was entitled to a 10% reduction in my line rental. Sounds good, no?

There is a saying that you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Sorry to be cynical, but that’s balls. A much better saying, is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

“What do I have to do to get this discount,” I asked, “sign up to a new contract presumably?”

“No, Mr Billyo that’s not necessary, I just need you to confirm a few of your personal details, and I’ll set up this discount to start on next months bill.”


“Firstly Mr Billyo could you confirm your Address?”

“Hang on,” I said, “before I give you all my personal details, can you confirm who you are for me. If you’re working on behalf of Orange you’ll be able to tell me my date of birth, for example.”

“I’m sorry sir, we are not at liberty to divulge customers personal details.”

“But I am the customer.” I said.

“How do I know you’re not someone who’s just picked up Mr Billyo’s phone, unless you confirm your personal details?” replied the faceless voice.

“But how do I know you’re not someone phoning random telephone numbers with your number withheld attempting to get their personal details?

“Well you have a mobile phone contract with Orange.”

“A one-in-five chance,” I said “You could have guessed.”

And so a stand-off ensued, where I attempted to swap my postcode for my date of birth. But they would not give me a single detail to prove who they were. Why should I give out any details to prove who I am, if they will not prove who they are? In these days, where we are told it’s vitally important we protect our identity from fraudsters, surely we should expect the voice on the other end of the line to prove who they are, in the same way as we must prove who we are. Moreover, in most situations, it’s surely the responsibility of the caller, not the answerer to prove their identity.

Through my cynicism I’ve probably missed out on a 10% discount, but presumably I can phone Orange and get the same deal from them. If it exists.

In other news, I’ve finished the final draft of my thesis. Hate to go all Bridget Jones on you, but this is v.v.v. good news. Hopefully my supervisor will only be able find a half-full red pen with which to destroy it.

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