Telstra’s prying habits haven’t crossed the Tasman

No snooping in NZ: TelstraClear

TelstraClear employees in New Zealand can rest assured that they are not subject to the invasions of privacy by parent company Telstra reported by The Australian.

The newspaper claims Telstra has authorised the collection of personal files on its staff, including compiling secret dossiers on their sexual preferences and race, as well as their religious and personal beliefs. The paper says it obtained an internal Telstra document detailing a surveillance policy that authorises in-house investigators to spy by video and monitor email traffic, internet records and phone accounts.

Staff surveillance may be conducted only where it is “reasonable” to “manage a business risk” or “investigate suspected misuse of equipment, or misconduct”, and only when “other investigative avenues have been attempted without success”, the document reportedly says.

Toilets, showers, changing rooms and locker rooms could be overtly monitored with the approval of senior security staff.

Telstra has confirmed the existence of the document, saying it was procedural policy based on privacy legislation and regulation.

TelstraClear spokesman Mathew Bolland says the New Zealand telco collects information directly relevant to

the employee’s job, in terms of the Privacy Act.

TelstraClear maintains a central employee information system, which staff can view, and managers have their own files related to things such as key performance indicators, which employees can also view, Bolland says.

In October, New South Wales will become the first Australian state to outlaw unauthorised surveillance of employees, using technologies that include video cameras, email and tracking devices.

The Workplace Surveillance Bill 2005 makes it a criminal offence to take part in any form of covert surveillance unless an employer can prove to a magistrate it has reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

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