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Friday, May 12, 2006

Major fallout over secret collection of phone call data in US

USA Today reports that the US National Security Agency has been secretly collecting phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

There’s no mention of whether phone call records held by these companies relating to calls in countries other than the US have been collected.

Verizon and AT&T are global companies with significant business interests in Australia – both companies are listed as service providers on the website of the Federal Government’s Information Management Office.

The issue is a big one in the US and there is now talk of Congressional inquiries and civil damage suits as reported in this article in The New York Times. (Thanks to TruthOut for the lead).

While it hasn’t been much of an issue to date in Australia, the capacity of the US Government to access personal information from outside the US by compelling disclosure by US companies under the Patriot Act has been a hot topic in Canada since 2004.

British Columbia and Nova Scotia provinces are in the process of introducing legislation to require information about Canadians to be held in Canada, seeking to avoid the reach of the Patriot Act. (Thanks to David Fraser's Canadian Privacy Blog for the lead).

When the issue was first raised by the British Columbian Information and Privacy Commissioner the South Australian Government (at that time all SA IT functions were outsourced to the US company EDS) issued a statement that they were satisfied that the BC report carried no implications for SA data - I can't find this on the web.

I haven't seen any other public reference to this issue by Australian governments or heard a peep out of Australian privacy commissioners.

Just a "Canadian" concern?

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