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Raiche, Holly --- "Calling number display: a code revisited" [2002] PrivLawPRpr 40; (2002) 9(5) Privacy Law and Policy Reporter 88

Calling number display: a code revisited

Holly Raiche

Calling number display (CND) is back on the public agenda. The Calling Number Display Code (the Code),[1] first published in 2000, has been revised and released for public comment.[2] For those involved in earlier debates surrounding the introduction of CND services, the Code rules are familiar, as are the debates surrounding them. However, ,the context in which this Code is being revised is a very different one to that ,in which CND services were first introduced.

Calling line identification (CLI) is the data generated in telecommunications networks when a call is established, and includes the called and calling party numbers, the date and time of the call, ,its duration, and the routing of the call. CLI is integral to the operation of the networks, and the retention by telecommunications providers of the CLI data is essential for billing and network related purposes. CLI makes possible the provision of a range of services, including calling number display or calling name display (both referred to as CND). CND services present or display the subscriber number (or name) on equipment of subscribers to a CND service, providing that the calling party has not blocked sending the number or there is no technical impediment to sending it.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to CND. The advantages for subscribers of CND services include being able to identify the number of the incoming call or, for business users, retaining contact numbers of callers for the purpose of future contact. CND services also, however, raise privacy issues for callers who, in many situations, may not wish the receiver to be able to identify their telephone number.

In 1991, Telecom (as Telstra then ,was) approached the regulator AUSTEL (now the Australian Communications Authority, or ACA) about introducing a range of services based on CLI, including CND.[3] As a result of that request and other privacy issues, AUSTEL conducted an investigation into privacy issues in telecommunications, including the introduction of CND services, and recommended that Telecom conduct a trial of CND services which would inform debate on the terms and conditions under which CND services might be introduced.[4]

Telecom conducted a trial of CND services, the results of which were considered by AUSTEL’s Privacy Advisory Committee[5] when it drew up guidelines for the introduction of CND services in Australia. The key recommendations of those guidelines were:

CND services have been offered in Australia by telecommunications providers since 1997 on an opt out basis. Before the introduction of those services, a public education campaign was launched, although there was considerable debate ,at the time about the adequacy of the campaign and the public awareness levels achieved as a result of that campaign.[7]

Carriers, carriage service providers ,and their employees and contractors ,are covered by Pt 13 of the Telecommun-ications Act 1997 (Cth), which provides basic privacy protection for the use and disclosure of the personal information of their subscribers. There are, however, privacy issues raised by CND services which are not explicitly covered by Pt 13. These included ensuring a subscriber’s right to have access to blocking the display of their CND information free of charge, ensuring public awareness of the use of CND services including its privacy implications and, if possible, seeking to have CND service subscribers use the CND information they gained appropriately. The Government certainly flagged its concern by specifically mentioning CND in the telecommunications legislation as an example of the issues about which a telecommunications industry code might be developed.[8]

These issues were addressed in the Code, developed under the auspices of the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) and published in 2000. The Code rules covered all of the recommendations made by AUSTEL’s Privacy Advisory Committee.

Original CND Code rules

Blocking and sending ,CND information

All customers must have the option of having a permanent line block (their number is not displayed whenever they make a call, except when the call is to emergency services) and the ability to dial an override code so that they can override a permanent line block to have the calling number displayed when they choose. If customers do not have a permanent line block, they must be able to dial an override code when making a call, so that in particular situations, they will not have their CND information displayed. Customers must not be charged for having a per line block and must be able to change this option at no cost at least once every six months.

Public education

Carriers and carriage service providers have specific requirements to conduct a public education campaign for the introduction of CND services, and ongoing awareness requirements to keep customers informed about CND and its privacy implications. The Code also requires that the level of public awareness be monitored to ensure continuing public awareness of CND issues.

Guidelines for organisations

The Code contains a guideline for organisations that subscribe to CND services on the appropriate use of the CND information they obtain. The Code requires that the suppliers of CND services provide the guidelines ,to all organisations that subscribe to CND services and take action if the organisation contravenes the guidelines.

Use of CLI information

The Code also lists the four purposes for which service providers can use CLI information: fraud prevention, billing, credit management and credit control. ,It is a breach of the Code if the CLI is used for any other purpose. Arguably, this section is already covered by Pt 13, but the Code goes further in explicitly stating the only purposes for CLI information may be used.

Changed circumstances

ACIF has completed its review of the Code, up to the public comment stage, taking into account two developments: the results of research on public awareness of CND, and the then anticipated legislation extending privacy protections to the private sector.

In early 2001, a subcommittee of ACIF reviewed research undertaken by the ACA on consumer awareness, including awareness of CND. ACIF also commissioned additional research on specific target groups’ awareness of CND, supplementing the ACA research. The results of the research showed a high level of public awareness of CND both generally and in specific target groups, indicating that the targets for public awareness set out in the Code had largely been met. The research respondents did, however, indicate they would like further information on CND.

The other major change since publication of the Code is the extension of privacy protections to the private sector by the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (Cth). As a result of these amendments to the Privacy Act 1988, organisations subscribing to CND services are now bound by the National Privacy Principles (NPPs) when using CND information.

A revised Code

The revised version of the Code now out for public comment contains most of the requirements of the earlier Code. However, there have been revisions which reflect the changed circumstances.

The requirements for a public education campaign have been removed. Because CND was introduced some years ago, the requirements for a campaign before the introduction of CND services is no longer relevant. Further, with the high public awareness of CND, requirements for ongoing awareness research have also been removed. However, the requirements ,for ongoing awareness activities by service providers have been retained.

The requirements in relation to the organisational guidelines have also been changed. The Code still contains the guidelines for organisational use of CND information, with its content unchanged. However, the only requirement on service providers is now to make the guidelines available to organisations and, if possible, collect complaints information on organisations’ adherence to the guidelines. Enforcement of organisational use of CND information will now be largely through the Privacy Commissioner’s office.

There are some other changes as well. The Code now explicitly states that Code rules do not apply to CND services offered on an opt in basis, provided the public is informed. The Code also now explicitly applies only to the standard telephone service,[9] that is, a service (fixed line or mobile) for voice telephony — or its equivalent for people with disabilities.

The Code also addresses two issues which have arisen since the Code was first published. One issue which the earlier version of the Code did not explicitly cover arises when a service provider provides a corporate customer with a freephone or freecall number (1300XX or 1800XX) and, in billing that corporate customer for the number, provides to that customer the numbers which have called that freephone or freecall number. The Code now requires that full CLI information not be passed to such corporate customers, except in relation to emergency organisations.

The other issue arises in a call diversion situation, where the caller rings another party, but that party has diverted their calls to another number. The Code now clarifies that, in call diversion situations, if the caller has blocked sending CND information, that information is not shown in any call diversion situation.

The EU has recently released a Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, which includes provisions relating to CND services.[10] The Directive seeks to balance the privacy rights of both the called and calling parties, suggesting that each party have a simple and free of charge means of either blocking sending of CND information, or for the called party, rejecting calls where CND information has not been sent. In both cases, there is a responsibility to ensure that the public is made available of the services and their implications.

Public comments will determine whether, in the Australian context, members of the public think the revised Code meets both Australian and international tests for privacy protection in the context of CND. l

Holly Raiche is a Project Manager at ACIF, responsible for the consumer codes relating to privacy and for ACIF’s Privacy Advisory Board. She is also ,on the editorial board of PLPR.

[1] ACIF C522:2001 Calling Number Display Industry Code, available at <>.

[2] The public comment period is from ,1 October 2002 to COB 1 November 2002. Submissions can be emailed to ACIF at or mailed to ACIF at PO Box 444, Milsons Pt, ,NSW 1565.

[3] AUSTEL Annual Report 1992-1993 p 70.

[4] AUSTEL Telecommunications Privacy December 1992 pp 94-95.

[5]AUSTEL Calling Number Display January 1996 pp 11-16 discusses the trial and results.

[6] AUSTEL above note 5 p 4.

[7] See Dixon T ‘Calling number display about to hit the market’ (1997) 4(6) PLPR 102.

[8] Section 113(3)(f)(iv) Telecommunications Act 1997.

[9] Defined in s 6 Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999.

[10] Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications art 8.

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