Telstra has a database of your NextG web activity

So, in what must be my biggest blog day ever, Telstra posted this:

What is clear from their previous post and the pickup in the media (including ABC, Crikey and is that people care about this, a lot.

What is also clear is that they’ve had to go and talk to the Privacy Commissioner, the Australian Communication and Media Authority, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

I’d like to thank Senator Ludlam for raising this with Telstra government affairs which without a doubt helped raise the profile of this issue.

There are a couple of issues with Telstra’s updated statement:

  1. They admit to constructing a database with your full query string and IP address
  2. They don’t address the moral issue of being involved with a company so involved in curtailing human rights (Netsweeper).
  3. Just stripping out the query string doesn’t erase all personal information

I don’t think we can ignore any of these problems, and I hope we get good responses and resolutions to them.

The significance of point 1 should not be understated. This means that some people, somewhere, have access to a decent amount of your browsing history. There is no details on who has access to this (hint: law enforcement could probably request it). There is also no explanation about why this was applied to everyone.

Update: after rereading their blog post, at best I can say it’s ambiguous on if they stored this or not. One sentence implies that they do, another implies that they don’t. Clarification would be most welcome, and given the history so far, we should not assume the best.

Personally, I’m really disappointed in Telstra for at any point thinking it’s okay to finance human rights abuses. I’m also really disappointed in world governments for permitting the sale of such software to those who use it to oppress their people. We should be in the business of exporting freedom and democracy, not exporting tyranny and oppression.

If you have a NextG handset, I strongly suggest the following:

Telstra funding censorship in Middle East

This post inspired by

So, we know that Netsweeper is used by Telstra -

We know that Netsweeper is used in Qatar, the UAE and Yemen ( – see also–aiding-repression-or-just-doing-business ) and these states use it to suppress free speech and access to information.

The majority of countries that implement suppression of free speech on the internet could not afford the high cost of developing such software. The only thing that makes it possible is the subsidies from companies in the free world. With Telstra using Netsweeper, they directly contribute to the development costs of this software.

In years gone past free speech was suppressed by members of secret police and guns. Now you can do a lot of that with software. Software that is made affordable because the development costs are shared with companies such as Telstra.

See also my last two posts on the topic: