Telstra hands customer data to FBI

July 19, 2013
Data includes emails, online messages and phone calls.

Telstra has been sharing its customer’s data information with the FBI and US Department of Justice for at least a decade, the Crikey website revealed on July 12.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said: “Telstra, at the time majority owned and controlled by the Howard Government, struck a deal to allow 24/7 surveillance of calls going in and out of the United States, including calls made by Australians.

"This is an extraordinary breach of trust, invasion of privacy, and erosion of Australia's sovereignty.

Under the secret deal, the US Federal Communications Commission granted a cable licence to Reach – a joint venture company between PCCW and Telstra – as part of an undersea telecommunications project. In return, Telstra and Hong Kong based PCCW agreed to store data of all phone calls and date that were transmitted to the US via their cables.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on July 13 that: “The data includes the content of emails, online messages and phone calls.

“Telstra must preserve and 'have the ability to provide' wire and electronic communications involving any customers who make any form of communication with a point of contact in the US, as well as 'transactional data' and 'call associated data' relating to such communications.”

Ludlam called on the Australian government to immediately disclose details of the deal.
He said: "While the current Australian Government recently pushed then abandoned a two-year mandatory data retention scheme, for more than a decade this secret deal with the United States compelled Telstra, Reach and PCCW to store all customer billing data for two years.

"The deal also compelled Telstra, Reach and PCWW to provide any stored communications and comply with preservation requests; to provide any stored meta-data, billing data or subscriber information about US customers; to ignore any foreign privacy laws that might lead to mandatory destruction of stored data; and to refuse information requests from other countries without permission from the United States.”

The revelations come after similar news that the NSA has been compelling many major internet companies to allow them to spy on their customers data and communications.

A Telstra spokesperson told Fairfax the agreement was signed "comply with US domestic law".

"It relates to a Telstra joint venture company's operating obligations in the United States under their domestic law. We understand similar agreements would be in place for all network infrastructure in the US.”

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