29 May 2013

How safe are genealogy company contract data workers in the third world?

The recent Rana Plaza disaster, which killed 1,129 textile workers in the collapse of that Bangladesh factory complex, has caused many well-known companies with contracts there to adopt more stringent oversight. Loblaws, Benetton, Children’s Place and Primark are amongst those companies.

What about companies in the genealogy space that contract work to developing (third world) countries, most notably Ancestry and FindMyPast? We know very little about the working conditions of those who transcribe the historical records we enjoy.

Back in 2009 Ancestry revealed that Beijing Formax, based in Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing, China, performed a majority of the company's data transcription as measured by cost. There's a promotional YouTube video for the company at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJQ3IKV5UkQ.

Another company that claims to have worked on US and UK census data is Intelligent Image Management Inc. (IIMI) with operations in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the USA. Their clients include ProQuest and the Library of Congress.

It's notable that neither of these companies mentions the safety of working conditions on their web sites. What measures do genealogy companies take to ensure the working conditions in the companies they contract with are safe?

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