Telstra acknowledges massive privacy breach

Investigations under way from Australian Communications and Media Authority and Office of the Privacy Commissioner as incumbent telco confesses to "mail-out bungle"

Telstra has potentially breached the privacy of some 220,000 consumer and business customers, mailing out letters incorrectly containing customer names, telephone plans and phone numbers.

The telco issued a statement this week admitting the breach and acknowledge it was attempting to contact all affected customers - including around 23,500 silent-line customers - to apologise for the error. Telstra requested customers who had received multiple letters to securely destroy them or return to sender.

The Australian Communication Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) slammed the telco for the “mail-out bungle”, and has called for the telco to provide compensation to those adversely affected.

“The potential for harm when personal details are disclosed is high and a privacy breach of this magnitude is deeply concerning,” ACCAN chief executive, Teresa Corbin said in a statement. “While Telstra appears to be taking swift action on this matter they must continue to invest great effort into ensuring every customer affected has the problem resolved to their complete satisfaction.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Office of the Privacy Commission (OPC) also confirmed they are jointly working on a response to the issue.

ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said the regulator's initial priority is to limit the damage to consumers caught up in the “bungle” and ensure remedies are quickly implemented where possible.

“I have spoken with Telstra and they have assured us they will fully co-operate with the ACMA and other regulatory agencies to minimise the fall out for customers,” Chapman said in a statement.

Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, welcomed Telstra’s prompt information when the matter occurred, however expressed concern about the amount of personal information that had been disclosed.

“Customers expect their personal data to be protected by organisations and incidents such as this are very serious,” Pilgrim said. “For this reason my Office will be opening an investigation into the matter today.”

According to Corbin, the “bungle” should prompt other businesses to review internal procedures and ensure the safety of their customers’ personal information.

Telstra has established a hotline for its affected customers at 1800 307 987.

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Tags privacyTelstraACMAAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC)

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