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Telstra tries to hose down “network management snooping” story

You can't spin a tinfoil hat

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Telstra has issued a statement denying that its network management systems are used for mass surveillance.

That accusation came from a Fairfax journalist, Philip Dorling, in a story that said that the carrier's use of products from Gigamon and Splunk amounted to a mass spookware implementation. As the original story put it:

“Confidential documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal the secret technology used to trawl Australians' telecommunications and internet data for analysis by ASIO, the ASD and law enforcement agencies.”

The technology involved is so secret that Gigamon offers an extensive set of technical (and non-technical) documents in its white paper library.

Telstra's attempt to hose down the controversy is is in the form of a statement posted at Australian outlet Delimiter:

“Telstra does not routinely collect or store our customers’ telecommunications data to undertake mass surveillance on behalf of Australian national security agencies. Intrinsic to providing telecommunications services is generating data, for example the time, location and duration of telephone calls. We generate this data as part of providing a service to our customers and we store it for as long as it makes sense commercially and legally to do so. For instance, we are required to hold billing data for up to six years to meet out obligations under the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code.

“Telstra does not use any traffic monitoring system to conduct mass surveillance on behalf of Australian national security agencies. There are legally defined instances when we receive and are required to comply with lawful requests from national security agencies to provide specific data from our networks. We comply with the law and only collect and disclose information to these agencies only when we are legally required or permitted to do so.

“Telstra is not required by law to store all communications data for Australian Government agencies. All telecommunications companies in Australia have obligations to provide reasonable assistance to law enforcement and national security agencies, which can include disclosing certain data when we receive a lawful request from these agencies. These powers are outlined in the Telco Act and TIA Act.”

Because the statement was clearly assembled in a séance bringing together executives, spin-specialists and lawyers, it will do exactly nothing to calm the touchy nerves of the tinfoil-hat brigade.

Especially among an Australian media which still believes that a published contract is a state secret. ®

Bootnote: Thanks to reader Darren Pauli, @darrenpauli who alerted The Register to this PR from Splunk. Fairfax Digital is a Splunk user as well: presumably to harvest user data on behalf of the spooks. ®

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