Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Sterley and Associates, a research company commissioned by Telecom to report on a four-month trial of Caller ID in the NSW country town of Wauchope in March- July 1994, has released its preliminary findings (The Wauchope Caller Identification Field Trial: Presentation Overheads of the Key Research Findings, 1 September 1994). Over 3,000 homes and businesses in Wauchope participated. The final report on the trial will be delivered in the next few months.
Some responses follow (Editor).
Telecom issued a Press Release (7 September) announcing the results. Extracts follow.
Telecom's Group Manager, Customer Affairs, Ted Benjamin, said Caller ID gave receivers of phone calls choice and control over which calls they answered, and when they answered them.
''Participants in the Wauchope trial have indicated that the system offered a large measure of freedom from intrusion, and reduced the incidence of hoax and obscene calls,' he said.
''The results suggest that for the first time there is a balance of power possible between the caller and the person being called.'
Businesses taking part in the trial also reported enhanced customer service, through the ability to direct calls, and respond more promptly to regular customers' needs.
The Wauchope trial research was conducted by independent research company Sterley & Associates for a specially convened consultative committee representing consumer interests, AUSTEL, the Federal Privacy Commissioner, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, and Telecom. It's aims were:
''The results,' says Denny Sterley of Sterley & Associates ''indicate a remarkable degree of positive interest. A survey we undertook at the end of the trial period found that only 2 per cent of those fully participating in the trial (that is, those both sending and receiving caller phone numbers) were opposed to Caller ID after the trial ended. And support for the introduction of Caller ID among other participating groups was also very strong.'
Mr Benjamin said the trial proved that the technology works and that there is a demand for it. But he added that it also underlined the fact that privacy issues had to be fully considered before the technology was available for commercial sale.
''There will always be people who do not want their number known for security or personal privacy reasons. For this reason, Telecom is committed to thoroughly examining Caller ID with AUSTEL'S Privacy Committee on the question of privacy and on conditions which might apply to a full national launch. What we have to do now is to identify the best way to do that,' he said.
''Blocking options are one likely way privacy might be protected, and the trial research recommended them.' ''Call blocking can be used to prevent numbers being displayed on a call-by-call basis; and "line blocking" can be used to prevent numbers being displayed for all calls.
''While there are still specific details to be worked out with the AUSTEL Privacy Committee, the Wauchope trial indicates that these security measures, together with a comprehensive public education and information campaign, would be fundamental to any national launch of the system in the future.' Mr Benjamin said.
Media Release - Telecom
The Consumers' Telecommunications Network (CTN), Australian Consumers' Association (ACA), and the Communications Law Centre (CLC) have issued a joint Press Release (8 September) in response to the results. The release follows.
Community and consumer organisations welcome Telecom's research on the public's use and understanding of Calling Number Display (CND) during its trial in Wauchope, NSW. While the research highlighted positive aspects of CND, it also highlighted issues of concern for consumers.
The research showed many people were able to understand and use CND technology to better manage their telephone use. However, the research also highlights the difficulty a significant portion of the trial population experienced in understanding the use and implications of CND services.
This was particularly true for some sectors of the community, such as older people and people from non-English speaking backgrounds where there was initial lack of awareness of the trial, in spite of Telecom's extensive pretrial and trial publicity.
Consumer and community organisations are also very concerned with the research finding that businesses showed very little awareness of a Code of Practice which was developed to ensure they would not misuse information they gained about individuals during the trial.
In consumer and community organisations' view, the best way to ensure that all consumers make an informed choice about sending their telephone number to a receiving handset is by introducing CND on an opt-in basis; that is, a customer who does not actively exercise a choice to send their phone number will not do so.
We call on AUSTEL not to allow the introduction of CND on a national basis unless it can be sure that all members of the public can be made fully aware of the implications of sending and receiving telephone numbers and can be fully protected from the misuse of CND information. Businesses must also be required to adhere to a strict code of conduct on the use of CND information
Trish Benson, CTN, Louise Sylvan, ACA and Helen Mills, CLC.