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​Telstra opens the vault for customers to access their own metadata

In the spirit of being "open and upfront," Telstra is allowing customers to access their metadata records and the same information that the telco provides to law enforcement -- for a fee.


As the Federal Government's data retention legislation inches closer to becoming law, Telstra has announced "new transparency measures" to ensure its customers will be able to access their own metadata records.

Under the new scheme, the telco will allow customers to gain access to the same metadata which would be provided "in response to a lawful request without a warrant from a law enforcement agency".

Speaking about the initiative, Telstra's Chief Risk Officer Kate Hughes said Telstra had a "profound" legal responsibility to provide assistance to police and security agencies, but that being "open and upfront" with its customers about this process was the best way to earn confidence and trust.

"With digital technology increasingly central to our lives, we are generating more data than ever before. With this trend has come some community concerns about who has access to this data," she said. "We believe that if the police can ask for information relating to you, you should be able to as well."

Customers will be able to request the information through an online form on Telstra's 'Privacy Portal' from April 1, 2015.

While customers can currently access call records and service details through existing billing arrangements and Telstra's MyAccount feature, the new feature will give them a larger picture of the digital dander they have left on Telstra's network.

However, the service also comes at a cost.

Any data beyond what is available through MyAccount will be "subject to a cost recovery fee when a request is actioned". Customers will also only be able to access their own data, so information such as details on incomer callers will not be provided.

Users will be charged based on the complexity of accessing the information and "how far back into Telstra records you request". Hughes said simple requests should cost in the order of AU$25, and detailed requests involving access to several years' worth of data across multiple services would be charged at an hourly rate. She added that this is the same costing that applies to requests made by law enforcement and security agencies.

According to Telstra this measure is an Australian first, and follows similar steps towards transparency, including the publication of the telco's first ever Transparency Report.

Published in September 2014 in the midst of ongoing public debate on data retention, Telstra's Transparency Report provided details on almost 85,000 metadata requests made to the telco during the 2013-14 financial year. Of these, roughly 75,000 were lawful requests made without a warrant.