Telstra fined AU$2.5 million in part for not making 50,000 phone numbers silent

Australia's incumbent telco failed to update IPND data for customers on Belong on 65,000 occasions.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Telstra has paid a AU$2.5 million fine levelled at it by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) after the regulator found what it described as large-sale privacy and safety breaches.

The first was Telstra failing to mark a customer's phone number as silent in the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) 50,000 times, which allowed them to be published in phone directories. The second was Belong failed to update IPND data on its customers on more than 65,000 occasions.

Australian telcos are required to upload a customer's phone number, name, address, and whether the number is silent to the IPND. The IPND can also be used by Triple Zero, emergency services, and law enforcement.

"When people request a silent number it is often for very important privacy and safety reasons, and we know that the publication of their details can have serious consequences," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

"The provision of these critical services can be hampered and lives put in danger if data is missing, wrong or out of date. It is alarming that Telstra could get this so wrong on such a large scale."

O'Loughlin said although Telstra self-reported the violations, ACMA chose to level the fine due to the telco failing to update IPND data in 2019.

Alongside Telstra, other telcos that were handed a remedial direction at the time included Optus, Vodafone, AAPT, Agile, Chime Communications, PowerTel, Primus Telecommunications, Symbio Networks, and TransACT.

In May, ACMA issued Lycamobile with a AU$604,800 infringement notice after it failed to pass on emergency info on 246,000 lines.

Two days later, ACMA issued formal notices to Telstra, Optus, and Aldi Mobile for not verifying new customer information.

Medion Mobile, which powers Aldi Mobile and is owned by Lenovo, was caught out on 53 occasions, Telstra was found to have breached its obligations 52 times, and Optus was pinged for one violation.

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