Telco privacy code nearer

The proposed privacy code of practice for the telecommunications industry has moved a step forward.

The proposed privacy code of practice for the telecommunications industry has moved a step forward.

Privacy commissioner Bruce Slane has released a draft code and called for submissions on it.

The draft code, which covers the industry’s handling of personal information about subscribers and other users, contains clauses on customer anonymity, interconnection, requests by a customer for the identity of someone who called them and the retention of call records beyond the time phone bills are sent out.

One section relates to telemarketing, which would require telcos to give subscribers the option of having a note beside their name in the phone book indicating that they don’t want sales calls.

Under the proposed code there is also the possibility of a customer having some — but not all — details of their address listed in the white pages, as opposed to the “either listed or unlisted” options available today.

The draft takes some cues from existing telco privacy codes around the world, examples being the provision “whenever it is lawful and practicable, individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves when dealing with a telecommunications agency”.

There are also some variations on overseas codes, such as the provision relating to retention of call records. A statement by Slane on the draft notes that unlike the European Union, which requires all call records to be destroyed after bills are sent out, the proposed New Zealand code will allow carriers to retain such information for six months after it is generated. “This … allows for other uses that might need to be made of the information in the meantime, such as traffic analysis.”

The code will have the same legal status as the Privacy Act when approved and gazetted, with complaints about privacy breaches dealt with in the same way.

The commissioner’s office has already consulted with the industry over the proposed code, which has been through several drafts before the public version was released last month.

Telecom spokesman Andrew Bristol says Telecom supports the proposed code, has been involved in the drafting and will be doing further analysis in order to make a submission by March 22, the deadline for responses.

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