Telstra is tracking you

Telstra has been accused of tracking the websites its customers visit.

Telstra has been accused of tracking the websites its customers visit using the Next G network, and sending the information to a company in the United States of America.

Although nobody from Telstra was available for an interview with the ABC this morning, in a statement Telstra did admit that it had been sending information overseas. Telstra has said that it is building the database for a new censorship product, which will allow parents to block their children from visiting certain websites.

Although the new product will be opt-in, the current data collection is not. If you are with Telstra and are using the Next G network, then your information will continue to be sent to the USA.

Mark Newton, the customer who discovered that this information is being collected was, until recently, one of the longest serving technical engineers at Australian internet company Internode. He is concerned about the breach of privacy this poses, as privacy laws in the USA are different to those in Australia. He says that privacy protection in the USA is minimal, and that there are almost no controls governing what can be done with your data once it leaves Australia.


Comment – Big Brother is here

Telstra sending customer information overseas is bad enough. But for the massive telco to do it without telling anyone? That’s just plain lying by omission. It’s the schoolyard mentality that says “I know I’ve done wrong, but if nobody finds out then I can’t get in trouble”.

Telstra has much wider reaching coverage than any other phone company in Australia. This means that many people, particularly those living in rural areas, have no choice but to use Telstra as their carrier for mobile services. So, do you give up your privacy or the use of your mobile phone?

It has been suggested that, by collecting this information, Telstra would be able to build a profile of each of its individual customers based on the websites they visit. It feels far too ‘Big Brother’ to me, and I know that I will be keeping my distance from Telstra until this whole mess is sorted out.

In the meantime, if you feel uncomfortable about Telstra tracking your Next G internet usage and sending it overseas, you may wish to write to Telstra to express your concerns, or to write to the Privacy Commissioner asking them to look into the issue on your behalf. A few thousand letters are much harder to overlook than a few clogged up complaint hotlines.

What do you think? Is Telstra well within its rights to send your information overseas, or is this a violation of your privacy? Should you have been asked first? Or even told that it was happening? And do you think that programs such as these should be entered into by choice?

Read more about this story from ABC News.





    COMMENTS

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    pate
    27th Jun 2012
    11:48am
    Telstra thinks they are God's gift well my son has the right idea he told them to keep the phone & only uses his mobile service now & it is definitely not with Telstra,
    jarraby
    27th Jun 2012
    12:05pm
    Let's face it, Telstra thinks it's more powerful than the government (saying it would only be part of the NBN on Telstra's terms). What hope do we poor consumers have of being treated with respect?

    The truth is, cookies collect information about people all the time so yes, big brother is definitely here and has been for some time :)
    annmaria
    27th Jun 2012
    12:29pm
    they shpoul get asut sevice better first . i dont get a sevice where i am in wa , i was wondering why i am getting so mush shit from over seas,telstra suks
    robnlee
    27th Jun 2012
    1:17pm
    PLEASE - if Telstra tracking is anywhere like their account accuracy, management skills and their customer service, nobody has anything to worry about. The frightening bit is they have already set the system up in India!
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    2:01pm
    robnlee.. your comment is so true; the thought of Telstra presuming they could organise something like that is truly laughable!
    genimi
    27th Jun 2012
    1:43pm
    as jarraby says - our activities on the net have been tracked for years - most websites attach tracking cookies to their sites - this is why it is always a good idea when doing online banking to ensure you open a new window for your trip to the bank website and then close it down again straight after - was told by techhead cousin not to travel from one to the other whenever doing financial transactions. and always scan your computer regularly as it will often pick up the tracking cookies and get rid of them for you - but this obviously has to be done regularly because your next trip into the ether will get you more cookies!
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    2:04pm
    genimi, how do I scan my computer regularly? I do clear recent history frequently (which means having to log back in to email and facebook); is that the same or something different?
    genimi
    27th Jun 2012
    2:57pm
    most anti viruses scan for tracking cookies as well - you can set the program to scan on a regular basis - mine scans every day if the computer is on (which it is most days, naughty me). hopefully you have an antivirus program? If not there are a few free ones around, AVG free for instance but they only offer pretty basic protection - to get full protection you have to pay. Clearing history doesnt get rid of tracking programs.
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    5:10pm
    Thankyou genimi, I have now installed the AVG Anti-Virus FREE EDITION and it was pretty straightforward. I do have to 'clear recent history' quite often and am wondering if, when I click 'clear all history' where I then have to log back in to gmail and facebook I may lose the AVG anti-virus? I don't expect you to know or even answer that.. just stating a concern (see why in my comment below to Rachel, today at 4:32pm). Thanks again for your assistance.
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    6:12pm
    genimi, I now can have only one of anything up at the one time, in other words.. I can't have my gmail up with facebook. Only one thing at a time.. I'll find that really annoying as I usually have 3 up at the one time.. I'm wondering what happened?
    Anonymous
    28th Jun 2012
    2:49pm
    so.. unfortunately the AVG really slowed down my computer so i removed it; thanks for your advice though.

    27th Jun 2012
    1:58pm
    Surely, anyone who signed up for the recently amended Coles Frequent Flyer card will already know that big brother is now well ensconced in everyday life. When I signed up online, Coles not only knew the items that I usually purchased, they also knew what I purchased more of when that item was on sale! Helloo-o!
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    4:13pm
    I meant Fly Buys.. not frequent flyer.
    Rachel Tyler Jones
    27th Jun 2012
    2:32pm
    Pip, that's a bit of a frightening story. Were you doing your shopping online before you signed up, or had Coles accessed the information from your credit card/otherwise?

    And when you clear your browser history there are usually an options which allow you to also clear the cookies, saved passwords and form data. Or you may have a convenient button which allows you to clear everything. This will get rid of the cookies, however it is still a good idea to run a virus scan on your computer regularly.

    Maybe everyone is right. We should have a little more faith in Telstra's administrative incompetence. I'd still like to know where this issue stands within Australia's privacy laws.
    Anonymous
    27th Jun 2012
    4:32pm
    I've had a Coles Fly Buys (not frequent flyer!) for years; I NEVER shop online because I like supermarket shopping and I NEVER use a credit card to do general supermarket shopping. Coles (and probably Woolworths) keep a record of all sales where their card is scanned.

    'Tools' on my computer does give the option to 'clear all history' which does include cookes, browsing & download, form & search and cache. Every time I clear it I get a notification from facebook that someone has illegally accessed my facebook account from Sydney (I'm in Goulburn) which initially gave me a fright but now I just delete it.

    Did you mean 'We should have a little more faith in Telstra's administrative competence' perhaps? Or was 'incompetence' a befitting error?
    Rachel Tyler Jones
    28th Jun 2012
    1:42pm
    Pip, 'incompetence' was very much intentional, I assure you. And thanks - I now understand how they acquired the information, but I had no idea they were keeping such a comprehensive database on their shoppers. It's good to know.
    heyou
    27th Jun 2012
    3:25pm
    I read an article recently on a blog site (cleverworkarounds.com) about America's amendments to their Patriot Act. The Act requires any ISP in any country that connects to USA (which ones don't!) to provide the CIA or FBI with any information they want. The Act also restricts the ISPs rights to advise their customers of such requests. Another article I read from Al Jazeera was that the American President has the ability to have anyone in the world killed without approval of their political system.
    This paranoia about their security by the American Administration is certainly a concern for all other countries because their laws become overridden by America.

    I think what has happened to Telstra maybe a result of the Partiot Act.
    pate
    27th Jun 2012
    5:03pm
    And if America did what they think they do there would have been no memory of 9/11 there would have not been anything like happen. They knew about these blokes but did not act you don't worry about that do you. There is worse things happening in Australia right now which no one will do anything about because it wouldn't be "Politically correct" to do what we would like to do.
    pate
    27th Jun 2012
    5:08pm
    The FBI & the CIA would be like Julia Gillard & Tony Abbot they would argue about who was right and they would still be arguing as the world crashed around us.
    Riddle
    29th Jun 2012
    10:50am
    Lol pate i like to watch "who wants to be a millionare" and i am sure if one of our politicians was on the show they'd argue about the question well past...times up giggle. I like eddie and it amuses me how he can be relied upon to be at his sparkly eyed best whenever an attractive woman is sitting opposite in the chair.
    In regards to telstra tracking us, well computors are excellent at number crunching and databases are generated everywhere there is a microchip. So most websites, nearly all commercial venues when using a credid type card, all telo type venues, resturants, pizza shops, botttle shops the list is endless. So by hook or crook those databases can be easily sold or accessed. If only we all knew who hook and crook were?
    pate
    30th Jun 2012
    1:53pm
    Fair enough statement Riddle but who really cares if you have nothing to hide anyway ? I do not care they can track me all they like they would get very bored.

    30th Jun 2012
    4:00pm
    Every month I do a Telstra online follow up regarding my usage of fixed line, mobile and internet. Note.. every month. Yesterday I received the survey as usual and the survey fanfared that they had made changes to the monthly survey which would benefit all users. Telstra asked if I still had 'TPG as your internet provider'.. I CHANGED TO TELSTRA INTERNET MONTHS AGO!! Why does Telstra so often get things wrong?
    Histoman
    2nd Jul 2012
    2:40pm
    I am with I Primus. Do you mean I am being tracked whenever I visit a website or buy anything. My most visited site at the moment is Hesta, to see how the GFC is still progressing via my Super account, even though I am not with Telstra ?
    Jill
    3rd Jul 2012
    7:55pm
    Who knows what Telstra gets up to - I had an email stating that MY BANK had REJECTED my AUTOMATIC payment on my CREDIT CARD - YES I am shouting! - for insufficient funds!!!!!!! Firstly, I did not have/use the service Telstra wanted payment for and although the email said I could pay by visiting their website it freaked me out!!!! I had used my credit card to pay my phone bills YEARS ago. I have since changed that card! WHY AND HOW did they keep ANY of my card details when their website specifically states that it is safe and no "sensitive" data such as the card number is kept on their files. Made me so MAD! I have asked why and the reply would do credit to a Year 2 trying to (a) spell (b) get the grammar right and (c) cover their ass!
    Ruralnurse
    3rd Jul 2012
    10:40pm
    Download Do Not Track Plus. Free download. This blocks all tracking "cookies". Plus, clear your cache after using your computer. I don't really have a problem with anyone knowing where I have been. Given that I use a Mac, I am happy enough with things.


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