Privacy Commissioner investigates data thefts

The federal Privacy Commissioner has opened a formal investigation into possible breaches of the Privacy Act by Telstra mobile reseller Switch Mobile and call centre outsourcer One Touch Solutions following revelations that customer data from the two companies is for sale on the black market in India.

A statement issued by Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis says the investigation will follow up "allegations raised in the ABC's Four Corners story, Your Money and Your Life", adding that the Privacy Commission has contacted both companies involved in the scandal.

The Four Corners program produced evidence alleging sensitive customer records, including financial and identity details, had been lost from the two companies and was now for sale.

Curtis said customers not satisfied with the response from the two companies should contact her office, adding that aggrieved customers could lay complaints with her office.

People should consider dealing "with businesses that have a clear Australian connection, and be sure you can contact them if you have any concerns; only give out personal information that is relevant to the transaction", Curtis said.

The Privacy Commissioner's investigation comes only days after Attorney General Philip Ruddock indicated he felt the alleged breaches raised by the ABC were covered by, and could be penalized under the Privacy Act should the breaches be proven.

The home page of One Touch Solutions,, appears to have been restored since Computerworld reported earlier in the week that it was not functioning; however, links into areas describing the company's operations, corporate values and contact details appear to be still disabled.

Switch Mobile's Web site states it anticipates around 200 customers may have been affected by the data theft, and that "all customers telemarketed by this contractor [One Touch Solutions] need to be aware that their personal details offered to this contractor at the time of the sale has been sold to a journalist in India.

"We must assume that your information too has been compromised. We recommend all customers contact our hotline to ensure you are aware of what has transpired. We will work with you actively to ensure that your identity is re-secured. This may require requesting a replacement credit card or in a handful of cases a re-issue of your passport."

Switch's statement also says it "regrets that one of our supplier's sub-contractor has committed this act" and offers to compensate customers "for this inconvenience".

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