Telstra reveals details of thousands of silent numbers

Unknow caller message on phone.
Telstar has released the details of thousands of silent numbers. | Photo: Thitima Uthaiburom (iStock)

Telstra has mistakenly revealed the details of more than 140,000 unlisted telephone numbers.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Telstra breached conditions of its carrier licence on more than 163,000 occasions after the details of over 140,000 customers, who had requested unlisted numbers, had the numbers made available to the public.

ACMA Consumer Lead Samantha Yorke said an ACMA investigation found Telstra published 24,005 unlisted numbers, sometimes referred to as ‘silent numbers’, with corresponding customer names and addresses in the White Pages.

Ms Yorke said Telstra also included 139,402 unlisted numbers with customer details in its directory assistance database, which is used by Telstra operators when answering calls from customers for services such as Call Connect and Directory Assistance.

She said most of the incidents occurred between 2021 and 2022 and some customers had their unlisted numbers and details included in both the White Pages and the directory assistance database.

“When someone requests an unlisted or silent number it can be for any number of reasons, including concerns for their privacy or safety.

“While we are not aware of any harm to people as a result of these breaches, Telstra failing to safeguard customer information, putting people’s privacy and safety at risk, is a serious matter,” Ms Yorke said.

She said Telstra reported the incidents to the ACMA after it discovered system issues and process failures had resulted in the release of the unlisted numbers.

“In response to the breaches, the ACMA has given Telstra a remedial direction requiring it to take actions to support compliance with obligations not to disclose or use information related to unlisted numbers.”

Ms Yorke said if Telstra breached the direction the ACMA could commence civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court where Telstra could face penalties of up to $10 million per contravention.