Telstra reveals sort-of Transparency Report


By Andrew Collins
Tuesday, 11 March, 2014


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Telstra has launched its first ever Transparency Report, revealing that in the second half of 2013 it received more than 40,000 requests for customer information from law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies and emergency services organisations.

But despite its title, the report leaves many questions unanswered.

The report provides numbers on the types of requests it received from 'agencies' - defined in the report as law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies and emergency services organisations.

And it states that Telstra will disclose customer information when it is legally obliged to do so.

"We only disclose customer information in accordance with the law and we assess all requests for information to ensure it complies with the law," it states.

But the report doesn't actually divulge how many times Telstra responded to these requests with customer information.

The report also doesn't disclose data related to national security requests.

"[The report] does not include figures on requests for information by national security bodies. 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," it says.

Nor does it say which agencies requested customer information.

"The relevant legislation in this area prohibits us from providing details of specific requests made by individual agencies for customer information. Additionally, Telstra does not want to do anything that might jeopardise any investigations," the report states.

Any reluctance from Telstra to break the law is understandable.

But given the above, it's hard to meaningfully interpret the numbers provided in the report. For what it's worth, the report states that between 1 July and 31 December 2013, the company had 40,644 requests for customer information (not including requests from national security agencies):

  • 36,053 for Telstra customer information, carriage service records and pre-warrant checks
  • 2871 in the case of life-threatening situations and Triple Zero emergency calls
  • 270 court orders
  • 1450 warrants for interception or access to stored communications

More information - including some details on around 50,000 requests for data in the Integrated Public Number Database - is available in the report (PDF).

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