The Federal Government's phone book of all Australian telephone numbers could include users' social networking details in the future, depending on the outcome of a review of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND).
The IPND covers all Australian telephone numbers and subscriber information. Its basic functions include determining callers' locations when they dial triple-zero and assisting law enforcement agencies in their investigations. It also is used to publish telephone books and provide directory assistance, although access to certain information in these instances is reduced.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has recognised that the IPND is in need of a review due to developments in the telecommunication industry since the database was first established in 1998. Consequently, it has released a discussion paper (PDF) inviting community comment on how the IPND should be improved.
One of the topics for discussion is the prevalence of social media and other internet-based services, and whether it should be included as part of the IPND.
"There has been an instance where children used social media to send a request for assistance with a mobile phone, rather than using the same mobile phone to make a direct call to the emergency call services," the paper read.
"There is likely to be public expectations that IPND users will adapt to new technologies and social trends such as Facebook and Twitter."
It also said that the roll-out of the NBN may require emergency services to adapt in response to new technologies. As an example, emergency call services might be required to establish instant messaging capabilities, the paper read.
The paper also recognises that the importance of traditional land-line numbers is beginning to wane in comparison to social media, email and instant messaging.
Despite that, it acknowledged that there would be difficulties in managing a database where the information is constantly changing or being added to. It stated that email accounts could be created very easily and aren't geographically limited. Overseas email service providers may have little incentive to provide information to an Australian database.
The paper also stated that while instant messaging and social media channels have similar problems to email, it would be difficult to determine which networks would continue to be prevalent in the future.
Submissions close on 16 December 2011.