'We hold a lot of data today': Telstra unfazed by data retention

'We hold a lot of data today': Telstra unfazed by data retention

Summary: Telstra CEO David Thodey has indicated that through initial discussions with the Australian government he doesn't expect any mandatory data retention regime to be an issue for Telstra.


Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra, has flagged that a government proposal that would require the company to retain customer data for two years would not likely be a major issue for the telco.

(Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Last week Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis flagged that as part of a raft of new national security legislation, the government would develop legislation requiring telecommunications companies to retain so-called "metadata" for up to two years for warrantless access by government agencies for law enforcement investigations.

Abbott and Brandis initially stumbled over what exact data telcos would be required to retain, but by week's end, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull ruled out internet browsing history, insisting it would be limited to call logs and IP addresses allocated to customers at a specific time.

Turnbull and Brandis last week began meeting with telecommunications companies over the proposal, and Telstra CEO David Thodey confirmed that discussions had commenced, but overall he was not fazed by mandatory data retention.

"I should be clear about this: we hold a lot of data today. We've got to get some clarity around exactly what changes the government is asking but on the early discussions, we don't see it as a significant issue for Telstra going forward," he said.

Thodey made similar comments in 2012 when mandatory data retention was first publicly canvassed by the then-Labor government.

"It's more about the accessibility to the data. Because of our role as the national carrier, we work very closely with security agencies anyway, so it's probably not a bigger impost on us," he said.

Thodey's comments come in stark contrast to those made by iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby, who has said that mandatory data retention could cost iiNet AU$100 million in the first two years, and potentially more after that.

Piracy crackdown needs to be 'ubiquitous and fair'

As the government looks to the best way to deter Australians downloading infringing TV shows, films, and music over the internet, telcos such as iiNet are at odds with rights holders over who should pay for the system to enforce copyright on a telco's customers, and whether rights holders should ultimately sue infringers.

Telstra, which owns 50 percent of pay TV company Foxtel, faces a balancing act between its obligations as a telecommunications company, and being a content provider through Foxtel. Thodey was adamant today that piracy in Australia was an issue that needed to be addressed, and the lack of availability was not an excuse for piracy.

"This piracy of content is theft. I hold a very strong view on that. You can't justify it on the price of content. A whole industry exists to create great content. It's theft," he said.

He said rights holders and telcos needed to collaborate on a solution, and any scheme needed to apply across the board to all companies.

"The question is how we as an industry — both in terms of the rights holders and the telco industry — find a workable solution that is ubiquitous and fair. And I think we've got to work through that," he said.

"If we can play a role that helps prevent theft just like we do in any way to help law enforcement, we will, because we're an Australian company. We're subject to the laws of Australia. I think we need to take a positive attitude.

"There are problems with every solution, I don't have the answer yet, but I'm willing to sit down and try to find an answer for the good of all Australians."

Topics: Privacy, Piracy, Telcos, Telstra, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • ... So...

    About that "Premium" you are paying for.... Yeah?

    Ripoff foxtel yeah?

    How many years have we have heard about "both in terms of the rights holders and the telco industry".... Telstra is the problem, along with News Ltd owning 50% each in foxtel.

    Time to vote with your wallet people.
  • No problem for Telstra

    Simply pass the extra costs onto the customer by exploiting their control of delivery networks.
    However both Optus & iiNet have already determined it will add over $10/mth to our bills.
  • they already have the browsing history

    The government doesn't need any more than to be able to identify who was using an IP address at a particular time. The spy agencies ASIO, GCHQ, NSA etc. already have huge amounts of data. They trawl through it looking for suspicious activity. Then they want to know who owned the IP address for that suspicious activity. They don't need for the ISP to keep your browsing history as the spooks already have the history and probably the data too. If they get that far they will get a warrant and they will have it all.

    MT was right. Get a proxy, in Russia or India or Brazil or the EU. Don't get one in the US.
  • Data

    That is scary, what do they do with the data?. And why are they already keeping it?
    Now I know how telemarketers get my name & number.
    Yes it's ok for us to pay 2-3times the price the rest of the world pays!. Just like the phone and internet plans on Telstra. You pay, because we say you will pay.
  • Comment

    Teltra comments bought and paid for by Malcolm Turnbull, Parliment house, Canberra