Telstra fields 40,000 government data requests in six months

Not including 'national security related requests'

Telstra received about 40,000 requests for customer information from Australian government agencies in the second half of 2013, not counting national security requests, the telco has revealed.

Telstra today released its first transparency report showing how it’s balanced requirements to protect customer privacy against national security and law enforcement requests by the Australian government. The report covers the six months leading up to 31 December last year.

Telstra said the 40,000 figure includes requests from law enforcement, emergency services and regulatory agencies, but does not include “national security related requests.”

Telstra explained the omission of national security requests as the telco’s interpretation of the law.

“Our understanding of the Attorney-General’s Department’s position on requests by national security agencies is that reporting on these figures is prohibited under the Telecommunications(Interception and Access) Act 1979,” a statement from the telco said.

Telstra said it is not allowed to specify the names of the individual agencies that made the 40,000 requests

Of the 40,000 requests disclosed, the vast majority (36,053) related to law enforcement seeking customer information including names and addresses; carriage service records including calling, SMS and Internet session data; and pre-warrant checks confirming telecom services of interest are still active, Telstra said.

Of the remainder, 2871 related to “life threatening situations” and triple-zero emergency calls, 1450 were for warrants for interception or access to stored communications and 270 were court orders, Telstra said.

“We only disclose customer information in accordance with the law,” Tekstra chief risk officer Kate Hughes wrote on the Telstra blog. “We assess any request for information we receive from government agencies to make sure it complies with the law.”

Telstra said Australian law prevents it from acting on any direct requests from overseas authorities for information on Australian customers. However, Telstra operations in other countries must comply with the laws of the land, it said.

“Across all the countries in which Telstra Global operates, we received less than 100 requests for customer information in the six months to 31 December 2013,” it said.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags national securitylaw enforcementtransparencyAustraliagovernmentTelstraprivacy

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