Data retention 'not a significant issue' for Telstra

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Data retention 'not a significant issue' for Telstra

Telco makes first public comments on proposed scheme.

Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra is not concerned about proposed legislation which would require communications providers to store user metadata for up to two years, the telco's chief executive said today.

During its full year results announcement today, Telstra chief David Thodey was asked about discussions the telco held with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis last week about the proposed data retention scheme.

Thodey said Telstra already holds a significant amount of customer data.

"We’ve got to get some clarity around exactly what changes the Government is asking [for], but on the early discussions, we don’t see it as a significant issue for Telstra," he said.

It is the company’s first public commentary on the Coalition's proposed scheme, which has drawn outrage from other members of the telecommunications industry and privacy advocates.

Thodey made similar statements in 2012 in regards to the then-Labor Government's plan for mandatory data retention. At that time he said the scheme would not likely be that onerous for Telstra but that accessibility to the data would need to be clarified.

Brandis and Turnbull met with Telstra last Thursday to discuss the potential data retention regime and determine a definition of the term ‘metadata’, in the first official meeting the pair had held with industry since announcing the proposal.

Turnbull had held informal discussions with industry over the last few months, but had been shut out of the Government policy ahead of its public announcement.

Telstra has previously declined to comment on the contents of the discussion.

However, its CEO's comments today are in stark contrast to fellow ISP iiNet, which has been a vocal critic of the plan

iiNet claims the proposed data retention scheme will impose a financial burden on telcos and impinge on the privacy of their users.

Estimates by iiNet put the cost of the scheme at $100 million in the first two years, which it said would need to be passed on to consumers in the form of additional costs to their monthly bills.

The Government is now working on defining the term metadata with telcos after both Brandis and Prime Minister Tony Abbott confused the issue by failing to outline the data they wanted collected.

ASIO and the AFP were forced to step in last Friday to clean up the mess and explain the specific data they were asking be collected.

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