Telstra says it only keeps customer data for billing, network assurance

No plans to copy Vodafone plan to log what online services customers use

A mandatory data retention scheme could be difficult and expensive for Telstra, according to the telco’s chief risk officer.

In addition, Telstra has no plans to follow Vodafone in a reported plan to record the online services used by customers, officials from the telco said at a hearing this afternoon of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee.

“For the most part, any data that sits in our network that is linked to individual, they would generally get on their bill, and that is information that we keep purely for the purposes of the billing cycle and network assurance,” said Telstra chief risk officer Kate Hughes.

“There’s a lot more data that could be conceived of in a data retention scheme, which today sits out on the network [and] is in no way identified to a customer or referenced to a customer,” Hughes said.

“If we were required to that, it becomes very complicated and very expensive.”

Optus and iiNet have previously highlighted the high costs associated with storing more data about their customers.

Earlier in the hearing, Telstra’s competitor Vodafone revealed that it planned to potentially log what websites customers visit. Customers would be able to access the information to understand how they had used their mobile data quota.

Telstra has not contemplated anything similar to Vodafone, said Hughes. “Our strategy actually is keep only what we need for billing purposes or network assurance purposes.”

In that way, the telco “can’t inadvertently breach a customer’s privacy,” she added.

“Most average data that sits in our network is never linked to a person’s account and so isn’t covered by the [Privacy Principles]. This is an objective we have in terms of our own personal standards, not least of all because it’s an overhead that we don’t like to carry, but similarly, if it’s there, then it presents a risk for us.”

Telstra seeks more clarity on what constitutes metadata and what is content and requires a warrant under the government’s data retention proposal said James Shaw, Telstra director of government relations.

“Let’s settle that and define what’s on the table here as part of the scheme.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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