Telstra reveals increase in warrant-free access to customer data

Telco's latest transparency report reveals growing appetite for so-called 'metadata'

Access to Telstra customer data by law enforcement agencies increased in FY 14-15, the telco revealed in its latest transparency report.

The vast majority of access to customer data in the 12-month period ending 30 June occurred without a warrant. Telstra said there it received 79,188 warrant-less requests for the kinds of 'metadata' that are covered by the government's data retention legislation.

That compares to 75,448 in the 12 months prior to the period covered by the report.

Those requests cover customer information (such as billing details), carriage service records such as call and SMS records (though not the content of phone calls or text messages), Internet session information (including the date, time and duration of Internet sessions and the recipient of emails sent from Bigpond addresses), and pre-warrant checks (which confirms that a particular telecommunications service is still active).

The telco revealed that it had also released customer data on 7485 occasions in relation to life-threatening situations and Triple Zero calls (up from 6202) and on 587 occasions in response to court orders (down from 598). (The court orders generally relate to civil disputes.)

In addition it received 2846 requests for interception or access to stored communications. Warrants are required when law enforcement agencies seek the contents of communications (such as the body of an email or the URL that a user accessed).

Overall the telco reported 90,106 requests from law enforcement agencies for customer data, up from 84,949.

The new data retention obligations for telecommunications providers, which will compel them to retain for at least two years a range of so-called 'metadata', begin in October.

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