CLI: let the user beware

With the launch of Telecom's caller line identification service as close as two weeks away, there are concerns about the effectiveness of its public education campaign and the fact that there is still no privacy code of practice governing New Zealand telcos.

With the launch of Telecom's caller line identification service as close as two weeks away, there are concerns about the effectiveness of its public education campaign and the fact that there is still no privacy code of practice governing New Zealand telcos.

TUANZ chairman Derek LeDayn says if people feel their privacy is being abused they will not accept the service.

"Based on the experience of countries such as the UK and US this is a real risk if CLI is introduced without proper education to consumers and business. People must know how to block the CLI facility."

Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane says people with the slightest concerns should ask for automatic number withholding on their line.

"I'm concerned that the option being given more prominence in the publicity is the ability to withhold your number by dialling a prefix every time you make a call.

"I believe that a number of people will see no advantage in giving up their existing levels of privacy but will not realise that they can have their number automatically withheld."

David Russell, of the Consumers' Institute, says Telecom will have to pull out all stops in the next few weeks.

"The major concern from the consumer point of view is for those with unlisted numbers. You pay for an unlisted number and that must be respected. If you were to suddenly have the identification of your unlisted number revealed you would then have a contractual problem with Telecom. That is a major area and I understand Telecom is making every effort to contact all those with unlisted numbers.

"There will have to be a mass media campaign, and it needs to be something more than just slipping a piece of paper into the phone bill. These might only be seen by the one or two people in the household who actually pay the bill, and you can't take pot luck that they will pass the information on to other people in the house. It has to be straight up and down information, not a matter of Spot the dog jumping around."

Grant Buchan, manager of CLI, says the education process began with the piloting of the service in Greymouth last year. Community and special interest groups were involved in the pilot and 3000 community groups have been mailed, of which 2000, such as Women's Refuge, have had briefings with the Telecom. Briefings will continue after the launch of the service to get feedback, says Buchan.

"Last month residential customers were informed in the In Touch magazine that goes out each month, and research shows that that is widely read.

"We've also direct mailed all our restricted and unlisted customers and there have been announcements in national and community papers."

Buchan says people can have all their calls automatically blocked by dialling 0800 222214 and requesting as much, or can block individual calls by dialling *67, or 1867 for those without push button phones. People can verify whether or not the call is blocked by dialling 083219.

He says until an interconnection agreement between Telecom and other carriers is signed, all calls from other carriers such as Clear and BellSouth, and calls from Telecom's mobile service, will be blocked.

"We are working with the Privacy Commissioner on this. One thing they're very hot on is that when the agreement is signed, there will be only one blocking number for all carriers."

Another concern of LeDayn is the slow progress of the telecommunications privacy code of practice.

"With a service like CLI, protection of individuals' privacy is paramount. Privacy of the public would be best addressed through a telecommunications privacy code of practice but that is proceeding very slowly. The privacy commissioner hasn't yet released a draft for public presentation and the way it's going it will be 1997 before we see anything."

Slane says he could not give any deadline for the code but says "there has been no movement on it lately. It is a useful document but the Privacy Act will cover the situation."

Telecom spokesman Clive Litt says: "It's a service that both business and residential customers overseas have found beneficial. The code (of practice) was taking some time to complete which is understandable so we introduced a service which fits in very well with advice of the privacy commissioner and others concerned with those areas. We've ended up with service that gives people choices about how they can withhold their number if they wish."

Elizabeth Longworth, legal adviser to Telecom, Clear and Bellsouth, also does not know when the code will be completed .

"I can't say when it will be out. That depends on negotiations with the privacy commissioner and many consultations with other parties. We'd like to think it will be out this year but we don't know.

"The code is much wider in scope than just the issue of caller line identification. One does not hinge upon the other--the launch of caller line ID and a telecommunications privacy code of practice."

Longworth says the introduction of CLI is consistent with the draft code and the Privacy Act.

"We've had an initial round where we talked to a cross section of consumer advocates, users, industry suppliers and the government and now we have to get the draft in good enough form to submit it formally to the commissioner.

The Privacy Act will then take over and the commissioner will call for submissions from the public and everyone will get a chance to read it and comment. The commissioner will then consider the submissions and make amendments."

Longworth says the final code will cover any company offering a public network service.

"The law (Privacy Act) has 12 general principles and its hard to know what they mean in the context of different industries. The drafter of the legislation didn't have telecommunications in mind when the legislation was drafted. The code will tailor the principles in the law to the telecommunications industry."

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