The Australian Communications and Media Authority
(ACMA) has found that the Southern Phone Company
Limited (SPC) breached various obligations by
inadvertently removing the silent number classification from its
customer records when uploading customer data to the Integrated
Public Number Database (IPND).
An investigation into the conduct of SPC was commenced by the
ACMA following complaints from two SPC customers alleging that
their unlisted telephone numbers had been published online.
The ACMA's investigation concluded that SPC had failed to
protect the unlisted numbers and associated name and address
details of 3,854 residential SPC customers by incorrectly
classifying them as listed numbers when it submitted data uploads
to the IPND manager on 18 March and 15 April 2013. SPC's
incorrect classification of customer's telephone numbers
directly resulted in the personal information of those persons
being published in the IPND and some regional directories. The
IPND, a telecommunications industry wide database, stores
information about Australian phone services including the phone
numbers, names and addresses of telco customers. The IPND is a
critical source of information for the emergency services,
emergency alert system and law enforcement and national security
agencies and as such the provision and maintenance of accurate IPND
data is a paramount obligation of carriage service providers under
the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth)
Upon becoming aware of the publication, SPC notified all
affected customers and offered customers a free change of number,
and assisted with the ACMA investigation.
The ACMA was satisfied that SPC's conduct contravened:
subsection 101(1) of the Act and clause 5.12 of the
Integrate d Number Database (IPND) Industry Code, by
failing to ensure the information provided to the IPND manager was
accurate, complete and current.
clause 4.6.3 of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections
Code (TCP Code), by failing to ensure that a
customer's personal information is protected from unauthorised
use or disclosure.
In response to its findings, the ACMA has issued a direction to
SPC to comply with the TCP Code. In addition, SPC has given an
enforceable undertaking to the ACMA to ensure that it complies with
its obligations under the Act.
SPC's commitments pursuant to the undertaking include
improving and updating its data collection, including how silent
numbers are flagged in its system, instigating comprehensive
internal and external audit of its processes, implementing
comprehensive training and education programs for SPC staff in
regards to collecting, storing and correcting client data and
providing comprehensive reports to the ACMA.
Failure by SPC to comply with the enforceable undertaking
exposes SPC to legal action in the Federal Court.
SPC is not the only telco found to have disclosed the silent
numbers of its customers. In 2014, the Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the ACMA found that Telstra had
failed to adequately protect the personal information of its
customers by allowing the information of 15,775 Telstra customers,
including the information of 1,257 silent line customers, to be
accessible on the internet. The information included full names,
addresses and phone numbers.
Optus also entered into an enforceable undertaking with the
OAIC earlier this year relating to data breaches including the
disclosure of approximately 122,000 silent numbers.
The ACMA notes that it had consulted with the OAIC during the
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