Australia’s telecommunication giant, Telstra to pay a whopping $18,000 fine for listing the contact information of a Sidney judge in its White Pages. The act violated of the privacy of the judge which is fiercely protected by the judiciary to avoid reprisal attacks by unhappy litigants.
According to sources privy to the case, the Sydney judge had contacted Telstra to have a phone line set up for his alarm system, only to discover that Telstra went ahead and published the name, address and the phone number of the line in its online White Pages and in print.
In a ruling delivered by the privacy commissioner, the Telco, violated the privacy act by listing the judges’ contact information without his consent, risking the safety of his family in the process. The sum awarded was to compensate for the “stress and anxiety” inflict on the Judge’s family due the careless actions of Telstra.
“Telstra’s breach has had serious consequences for the complainant. The complainant has as a result of the breach suffered significant anxiety and distress including I believe a well-founded fear for his physical safety and that of his partner,” ruled the privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.
A suspicious litigant affected by the Judge’s ruling was reported seen loitering around the Judge’s property. “As my details and those of my partner are suppressed on every public register, I infer his knowledge of our address is the White Pages site,” confirmed the judge, whose identity was not disclosed due to security concerns. The Sidney judge has since applied for an Interstate transfer due to safety concerns
In a rather weak argument, Telstra blamed the Sydney judge for failure to notify the company against listing his details of the white pages. According to the Telco, details of its fixed line customers are listed on its white pages by default unless the client specifically asked for a silent number.
Furthermore, Telstra evoked a loophole in the privacy act that allowed the company to publish the judge details because directory listing was allowed on its license under the Telecommunication Act.
Pilgrim rejected the argument, saying a license condition only outline the activities the company could engage in, but did not constitute a legal obligation on Telstra. In addition, the commissioner noted that a simple non-voice service offered to the Judge did not have to end up on Telstra white pages.
“There is no information before me to suggest that individuals who apply for a phone line for the purposes of an alarm system are aware or made aware that this service falls within the definition of a ‘standard telephone service’ and their information will therefore be handled in the same way as a phone line for a functioning handset,” he wrote.
Telstra in not new to privacy controversies. Earlier in March the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) found Telstra guilty of breaking privacy Laws for failure to protect clients’ private data from misuse and unauthorized access. Thousands of Telstra client data was easily accessible on the internet including customers with silent numbers.
Ali Qamar is an Internet security research enthusiast who enjoys “deep” research to dig out modern discoveries in the security industry. He is the founder and chief editor at SecurityGladiators.com, which is an ultimate source for worldwide security awareness having supreme mission of making the internet more safe, secure, aware and reliable.