Compensation sought after Optus allows huge privacy breach

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Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has made a ground-breaking class action complaint against Optus for disclosing the personal details of 50,000 customers, the first class action against a telco seeking compensation for a breach of privacy.

The telecommunications giant revealed last October that it had published the customers’ personal details, including home addresses.

In what is an important test of Australia’s privacy laws, the class action is expected to seek compensation for affected customers.

Under the Privacy Act, corporations that disclose the personal details of clients face penalties including fines.

But until now no class action using the act has been brought on behalf of customers seeking compensation. Under the act, consumers may be compensated for privacy breaches.

The class action alleges Optus failed in its duties:

  • Disclosing personal information of customers.
  • Disclosing private information originally collected for another purpose, namely the provision of Optus services. The disclosure of personal information in phone directories was a secondary purpose and was not consented to by customers.
  • Failing to take steps to protect the privacy of its customers.

Maurice Blackburn’s Elizabeth O’Shea said privacy breaches are an increasing problem as companies become increasingly entrusted with personal information.

“When people share personal information about themselves with companies, especially large ones, they expect that data to be held securely, and for it to be used only in lawful ways,” Ms O’Shea said.

“Too often we see reports of data mismanagement, and it’s time for companies to be held accountable for this.

“Bad practices in data management can have real world consequences for people, and to make companies understand that we will need to start taking them to court.”

Affected Optus customers can register by emailing [email protected] or calling 1800 318 061.

Are you worried about your privacy? Are you an Optus customer? Will you be seeking compensation?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 13
  1. 0

    How do you know if your privacy has been violated?

    • 0

      You may get an increase in cold calls from tele marketers, more advertising material in your mail or even promotional emalls that seem to be orientated to your specific interests or age group.
      Unsolicited adds for VIAGRA increased dramatically to me when I applied for a Seniors Card, it could be coincidence, but at the same time I started to get invitations to find a russian bride, much to the amusement of my wife.

    • 0

      Thank you, ex PS. Yes, I have received a few phone calls, sometimes from overseas, but since I do not recognise the number, I block them. I check Reverse Australia to find out where the call is coming from. I do not answer calls from anyone not in my contacts. I will try to be more vigilant in screening calls, messages, emails etc. Again, thank you.

  2. 0

    It will be agood test case. Both Private Enterprise and government should be held accountable for breaches of privacy.
    It is asad fact that therecis nothing more guaranteed to induce the taking of responsibility as a monetry punishment for not doing so.
    Unless I was personally affected I would not seek compensation from a company, but if I was let down by my government whos’ responsibilty it is to act in my interests, I would take all and any action available to me.
    We employ these people with an expectation that information provided by us to them is kept confidential and safe.

  3. 0

    Good question Lorna, I was going to ask the same but then I remembered reading an earlier article stating that the lawyers will be contacting each of those affected.

    • 0

      Thanks, Julian. Ande, yes, I am an Optus customer and have had my land line cut-off literally, as we were getting a lot of telemarketer calls, plus, not so many of my family, friends and/or acquaintances uses the landline anymore.

    • 0

      So these lawyers will be (mis)using this published data in order to contact people so they can charge them a fortune to argue in court that the data should not have been published.

      Seems a bit wiffy to me.

      If they win, will they then be suing themselves for using the data?

      Have they not heard of a Phone Book? (Aaahhh, the good old days.)
      Or is Sensis next in their sights?

    • 0

      Hawkeye, most likely. Then ‘misuse’ has gone full circle it appears.

  4. 0

    “Are you worried about your privacy? Are you an Optus customer? Will you be seeking compensation?”

    If I was worried about my privacy I wouldn’t allow my name to be placed in a telephone book showing name, initials, address and ‘phone number. I wouldn’t have a debit or credit card which allows the issuing company to know when I shop, where I shop and what I buy. I wouldn’t use the internet because it tracks which sites I visit and tailors ads to suit my wanderings.

    I am not an Optus customer and even if I was, I wouldn’t be seeking compensation for something that is already public information. We have come to a position in Australia where we have caught the American disease; blame everybody else when things go wrong and sue, sue, sue. We used to take responsibility for our own actions but now we blame others regardless. Take the case of a woman who slipped over in a supermarket and successfully sued for damages because they didn’t exercise their duty of care despite the fact that she slipped on a spillage caused by the woman when she dropped a bottle of milk. There are thousands of these examples and they have one common theme; people are refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. I won’t comment on legal practitioners drumming up business in case I get sued for libel.

  5. 0

    I am also concerned that we become a litigation society. If someone has suffered a real loss then they should be compensated but not for “being put out”. In the end we just make these lawyers rich at the expense of the rest of society. We are all investors in companies through our superfunds and ultimately we as shareholders suffer and the lawyers get rich. We should leave it to the police and regulators to deal with sloppy companies and make sure the EXECUTIVES are affected not just us the shareholders.

  6. 0

    Yes, LoraH, that’s what I would like to know.

  7. 0

    Medical Services of any kind block their numbers on outwards calls to make sure they speak to the person they need to to protect the patient’s privacy. They make sure they have the correct person before they give any details or ask any questions



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