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​'We live in the dark ages': Telstra reveals metadata requests come via fax

While Telstra receives upwards of 85,000 requests for metadata from law enforcement each year, the telco has revealed police still use a very retro method to file the paperwork.

Image by Abhisek Sarda, CC BY 2.0

Despite receiving 85,000 requests a year from government agencies requesting access to its customers' metadata, Telstra has revealed that most of the requests for this digital data come via fax.

Telstra shared the detail as part of an appearance at a public hearing on proposed Data Retention legislation held in Canberra today. Telstra advised the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that retaining customer data for a mandatory two-year period would increase the regulatory burden on the business, including a need to increase security to protect this sensitive information from hackers.

However under questioning from the committee, Telstra's Chief Risk Officer Kate Hughes revealed the company was already facing the burden of time-consuming paperwork under the current system of metadata access.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus questioned how law enforcement began the process to access metadata.

"I'm assuming it starts with an email from the Australian Federal Police," he said.

"If only we were that electronic -- largely, it's fax," Hughes responded. "We live in the dark ages, unfortunately."

It wasn't the only collision of retro telephony and modern technology to appear at the hearing. During a discussion on VoIP services during Vodafone's appearance at the hearing, Philip Ruddock teased out the theme even further.

"I'm very ignorant of these matters," said Ruddock. "Skype. That's a telephone that you use on a computer?"