Modem threat more vital than privacy: Telecom

Some subscribers to Telecom's JetStream ADSL service are unhappy that Telecom gave their contact details to Nokia so that the equipment maker could inform them that they may be in danger of electrocution.

Some subscribers to Telecom’s JetStream ADSL service are unhappy that Telecom gave their contact details to Nokia so that the equipment maker could inform them that they may be in danger of electrocution.

The problem was that several JetStream customers who don’t use Nokia modems have been getting communications regarding the matter since last year. Some say they were even contacted by Next Electronic Servicing, which offered to test their modem.

Nokia spokesman Antony Wilson confirmed the list was given to Next on a sub-contractor basis, so that Next could assist in contacting the ADSL customers and that the list was given to Next with explicit instructions that it be used only for contacting and informing the ADSL customers about the modem issue.

The saga began last July, when Nokia informed users of M1122 and MW1122 modems that their devices needed to be tested. Wilson says there was “a very low response” to that appeal, so another letter was sent in November mentioning the possibility of death by electric shock. Wilson says that attracted a much better response, enough to get a representative sample of modems, test them and determine which ones were potentially dangerous. Nokia’s offer to replace them was sent out at the end of April and the response so far has been “great”, Wilson says.

Telecom spokesman Andrew Bristol says Telecom gave its entire ADSL subscriber list to Nokia “because we have no way of knowing what kind of modem [every subscriber] has. In the interests of safety, it was necessary to contact all ADSL users”.

Bristol and Nokia spokesman Antony Wilson say an exemption to normal Privacy Act prohibitions on giving out such details without users’ permission was invoked.

“There are exceptions which allow disclosure in certain circumstances. The relevant exception here is where there is a serious and imminent threat to the life or the health of the individual concerned.” Bristol says. Nokia has signed a non-disclosure agreement with Telecom to prevent any customer details going further or being used for any other purposes, he says.

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