consumer group executive manager, Australian Communications Authority

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is to clamp down on businesses using public telephone directories for marketing purposes and will release new privacy guidelines next month.

Devised in conjunction with the Federal Privacy Commission, the new guidelines come in response to ACA concerns about the practices of businesses with access to people’s telephone numbers.

ACA consumer group executive manager John Haydon told Computerworld the new guidelines will apply to everyone who uses the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), but businesses are the main target as they are interested in accessing a large number of people.

The IPND is administered under a licence condition by Telstra and all carriers must supply information to the IPND about who has taken the service. Telstra is also required to disclose IPND information available to competitive directory providers.

Haydon said the ACA’s guidelines consist of four allowable applications of the IPND information, with everything else prohibited. These are: support for police and emergency services, support for emergency services, provisioning of directories, and directory services which are used to look up people’s telephone numbers.

“There are a number of other directory services — especially contact lists from the IPND — industries have separately compiled,” Haydon said, adding “what is happening today is without consent. What concerns us is that this is open to abuse [and] we want to make it clear what constitutes proper use.John Haydon>Text

“What concerns us is that this is open to abuse [and] we want to make it clear what constitutes proper use. The issue is compounded because a lot of information about people is put into the IPND.”

The ACA hopes the new regulations will create a mandatory industry standard governing all access to telephone numbers. Proposed fines are up to $250,000 per offence in line with existing privacy legislation. Haydon said the fact that the ACA has taken action showed some behaviour “is not reasonable”.

Telstra’s directory subsidiary Sensis welcomed the new guidelines. Sensis’ group manager of government and regulatory, David Graham, said the company does not source its directory information from the IPND, adding that the functionality of its directories prevents the generation of lists.