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Telstra speaks out on data, advertising, and user privacy

Telstra has denied claims that it shares personal customer information from its 100-point ID checks with advertisers to better target ads.

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Telstra

Earlier this week The Australian reported that MCN, the company responsible for selling advertising on Telstra's digital properties, was using data gained through the 100-point ID checks (required to open a Telstra account) to target advertising to individual Telstra customers.

According to comments from MCN's national digital sales director Nick Young in The Australian, MCN uses an "ID targeting data platform" for advertising, with access to a "highly accurate audience data set on consumers' age, gender, postcode, income and more".

"About 50 to 60 percent of our audience has a Telstra ID," Mr Young said. "Through the data matching process, we've matched each individual computer to that ID or that household address."

However, following these comments, Telstra has denied that MCN uses the ID verification data for advertising.

"MCN do not have access to any personal information about Telstra customers," a Telstra spokesperson told CNET.

"Telstra enable MCN to identify demographic trends...in the audiences viewing advertising on Telstra devices but this does not involve any personal information."

Telstra also directly addressed the news reports, saying that MCN's statements were "not factually correct."

MCN's Nick Young said that demographic data provided by Telstra was always aggregated and that "MCN does not target individuals with advertising based upon data from Telstra" or from any other source.

One interesting point to emerge from the reports around Telstra was the fact that its recently-updated privacy policy includes a section stipulating that it may continue advertising to customers, even if they are no longer with Telstra.

The policy states that customers' personal information may be used by Telstra or other third parties to "promote and market products, services and special offers" and that this "may continue after you cease acquiring any products or services from us until you opt-out."

Telstra has defended this practice, saying its marketing program "is designed to tell all Australians about our products and services [and] anyone who does not want to receive our marketing can opt-out."

However, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has said companies had a responsibility to inform their customers just what would be done with their personal information.

"From supermarkets to search engines, consumers are becoming a commodity without necessarily realising," said ACCAN spokesman Mark Callender. "When signing up for a telco contract, consumers can be overloaded with information so they might not be aware of all of the terms in the fine print.

"While it is important that consumers read the terms of their contract we'd like to see Telstra be much more explicit in how they inform their customers about what they will do with their personal information.

"Providing a phone number for customers to call and opt-out is only one option. Customers should be given multiple methods to be able to opt-out."