The Federal Government has completed a review of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) and released a report of its findings.
The IPND is a centralised database containing records of all Australian telephone numbers and associated customer details including their name, address, telephone number, type of service and service provider.
The report follows a study into the effectiveness and continued need for the IPND, in light of changes to telecommunications technology.
It also responds to relevant recommendations of the 2008 review of privacy law by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
During the review, the department engaged with key stakeholders, sought submissions, conducted two stakeholder workshops and commissioned a comprehensive study of the quality and accuracy of the IPND.
Recommendations for the future operation of the IPND were group into three key areas: enhancing data quality and accuracy; improved access, and greater transparency of governance arrangements.
The information from the database is used to help data users in providing a range of critical and non-critical services.
These include emergency call services; dissemination of telephone based emergency warnings; investigations by law enforcement and national security agencies; publishers of public number directories; directory and operator assistance providers and researchers for electoral, health and government policy research.
Almost everyone in Australia uses telecommunications services and the review found that the customer information collected by telecommunications carriage service providers (CSPs) remains a practical source of information to enable the activities of critical services, according to the report.
However, the IPND in its current form has become less useful to its critical users, and changes in technology mean that critical information is increasingly sourced in other ways with little coordination.
As IPND Manager, Telstra has provided a secure and reliable service, according to the report.
However, there is little information about how Telstra determines access charges and handles its various roles as carrier, publisher of the White Pages and IPND manager.
There is also little or no current incentive for Telstra to update and refine the IPND over time, and some industry stakeholders have argued that the cost of interfacing with the IPND’s legacy systems is significant.
The management and regulation of customer information could therefore be improved.
During the review, the Department proposed an option to transition from the current static IPND to a new system to provide better functionality to users, maximise the benefits of emerging technologies, streamline existing regulation and limit the future costs to industry.
This was tested extensively with key stakeholders.
However, the Department considered there was not enough support for this proposal at this stage to warrant the extensive effort and cost in developing a new system.
Nevertheless, the report includes details of that option, for possible future reference, and suggests that the current system be retained until at least the completion of the Department’s review of the Triple Zero Operator and the letting of the tender for the Triple Zero operator in 2016.
The report makes nine recommendations regarding the IPND.
These include improving the quality and accuracy of the data by enhancing the existing feedback processes between the IPND manager, data providers and data users including by exploring improved automated processes and ensuring changes are made in a timely way.
To amend regulatory arrangements to ensure subscribers can be provided with the information in the IPND relating to themselves and flag incorrect information for action by CSPs in a specified timeframe.
It also recommends that ACMA should be able to approve electronic public number directories to display unlimited numbers of entries from the IPND if appropriate ‘anti-scraping’ measures are in place.
ACMA should also be able to approve ongoing or periodic access for an applicant, provided that ACMA regularly reviews access and that a privacy impact assessment is completed.
Further, in order to improve the transparency of the management of the IPND, Telstra should make available the measures it takes to separate its role as part-owner of the publisher of the White Pages and the manager of the IPND and its standard form of agreement with data users.