Another breach of privacy by telco

August 4, 2015 |

There are few constants in the privacy sphere in Australia.  One is a privacy breach by a telco.  When it comes to privacy breaches telcos are frequent fliers. Itnews reports in Sensis publishes hundreds of silent numbers online on residential customers having their unlisted numbers published in the White pages online.  Last October the Privacy Commissioner found against Telstra in ‘DK’ and Telstra Corporation Limited [2014] AICmr 118 for a breach of the Privacy Act 1988.  It was a significant finding though the award was risible given the egregious nature of the breach.

The breaches the subject of the report seem to involve a systemic breakdown either with Sensis or Telstra or both.

The article provides:

Telstra partner blamed as 230 unlisted numbers land in White Pages.

Sensis and Telstra are investigating a privacy breach that led to the publication of the unlisted phone numbers and addresses of at least 230 residential and business customers.

At least 80 residential customers with unlisted numbers have had their phone numbers, addresses and, in some cases, part of their names published in the White Pages online directory.

In addition, 48 business customers with unlisted numbers in NSW, 21 in Queensland, 29 in Victoria, 39 in South Australia, five in both Western Australia and Tasmania, and two in both the ACT and NT were affected by the privacy breach.

Silent numbers are used for a variety of reasons, including by domestic violence survivors and victims of crime.

The privacy breach comes after a Sydney judge was forced out of his home as a result of Telstra inadvertently listing his name and address in the White Pages. The telco was subsequently fined $18,000 by the Privacy Commissioner.

In a thread on broadband forum Whirlpool, one user reported being told by a Telstra employee their number was “definitely marked ‘unlisted’, no question”, while a Sensis representative said their details had come from Telstra.

Compounding the problem, an unlisted number can in some circumstances be found through a regular web query because White Pages business listings appear as search results in Google

A spokesperson for Sensis told iTnews the company was investigating the matter.

“Sensis relies on the accuracy of the data provided to us by the various carriers in order to update White Pages listings. It is up to the carrier to ensure they provide Sensis with an accurate list of information that excludes any silent numbers,” the Sensis spokesperson said.

“Sensis has been in touch with the relevant carriers and will be removing these listings while the matter is investigated.”

A Telstra spokesperson laid the blame on one of its wholesale customers.

“The White Pages directory relies on retail service providers to provide accurate data. We’re looking into it but it seems these numbers relate to a single Telstra Wholesale customer. We have contacted this wholesale customer to advise them,” the Telstra spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudman told iTnews customers who fear they may be at risk of harm as a result of the disclosure should take immediate steps to protect themselves.

“[Customers] who have had unlisted details published should contact their service providers immediately and seek their details be removed from directories,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also advised affected parties to contact the TIO for assistance if the issue cannot be resolved with the service provider.

 

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