Telstra privacy bungle 'must not happen again'

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Telstra privacy bungle 'must not happen again'

Thodey issues ultimatum to staff.

Telstra chief executive David Thodey has urged staff to double down on the privacy of customer data after a series of incidents led to increased criticism of the telco's practices.

In an email to staff, posted to Whirlpool and verified by a Telstra spokeswoman, Thodey said privacy was "an essential requirement and our license to operate".

Thodey said revelations last week that Telstra had worked with Canadian software vendor Netsweeper to collect and monitor data from Next G mobile subscribers, along with damning assessments of a previous privacy incident also released last week, created an "an impression that Telstra does not care enough about the privacy of our customers".

"Our customers' trust is a commodity that's both precious and fragile," he said in the email.

"It takes months and years to build, but can be broken in one day ... [The incidents] undermine the great work we have done to improve customer satisfaction and change the way our customers talk about us.

"Of course, the truth is we care deeply about customer privacy."

Thodey urged staffers to contact their manager urgently in case of a potential issue with privacy, in a bid to clamp down on future repeats or similar problems.

The telco faces the potential of yet another investigation by the Australian Privacy Commissioner — its third in a year — probing the decision to monitor network traffic, and send some of that traffic to a US-based data centre, without first informing users or allowing customers to opt out.

The monitoring came in anticipation of the launch of an opt-in mobile filtering product dubbed 'Smart Controls' but media reports suggested internal policy management software would not allow Telstra to run selected trials of the software.

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