Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Australia Planning to Trace Callers to Customs

The following article comes from "ZDNet Australia" and should raise concerns about privacy, data protection and chilling legitimate communications between individuals, compliance officers, legal advisors and other consultants and the Australian Customs Service.  A first reaction is for any persons who may have Australian customs issues should consider making inquiries through lawyers  because the communications are protected by solicitor & client privilege.  It would also be wise to determine whether Australia has an information sharing arrangement with a home jurisdiction (such as the United States, new Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and other countries which have entered into free trade agreements or bilateral customs agreement)

Callers beware, Customs knows where you are

Liam Tung,

29 January 2008 04:28 PM


Customs plans on rolling out a system to identify a caller's location and what phone system they are using, however it has yet to reveal whether it will cross reference calls with Australia's national caller database.

The Australian Customs Service has requested expressions of interest from vendors to supply software and services which can identify the whereabouts of individuals calling the agency. The planned initial contract period will be 14 months, according to the document, with a scheduled start date of March this year.

The reverse telephone number search software will be used by Customs' Intelligence and Border Targeting branches. It is expected that Intelligence will analyse and share the information with Border Targeting -- the branch which intervenes in activities Customs deems pose a high risk to national security and border revenue collection.

The provider of the service will also need to be able to offer data sources that give the name, address, phone numbers and phone-types being used by the caller, such as whether the call is being made from a mobile phone or via satellite. Customs wants access to both listed and unlisted numbers of businesses and individuals.

The successful tenderer's staff work will be required to undergo a series of security tests administered by Customs. According to the tender, information collected via the system will only be able to be transferred offshore if it is approved by the department.

The tender does not outline what data sources will be accessed for the system, however, one potential source is Australia's Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) -- a database restricted to Australian law enforcement agencies and emergency services, which has been maintained by Telstra since 1997. Customs has not been approved by the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) -- which regulates access to the database in conjunction with members of its Law Enforcement Advisory Committee -- to access the database.

Organisations currently able to access the IPND include all state police departments, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Attorney General's Department and the Defence Signals Directorate. At the time of writing, Customs had yet to respond to's queries over whether it intends to access the IPND.

The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has criticised the IPND on the grounds its Law Enforcement Advisory Committee excludes input from bodies representing citizen's rights, such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

"It is quite unacceptable for discussion about the law enforcement uses of telecommunications data to be taking place entirely between directly interested agencies and industry representatives, without any balancing input putting the case for consumer privacy," the APF said in a submission to the government.

Please click on the following link to the Article -,130061744,339285471,00.htm


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