Are public number directories desirable?

72.233 A significant issue for consideration is whether public number directories that contain contact details of residential consumers are still desirable. In DP 72, the ALRC noted that ACMA had submitted that, given the proliferation of mobile phones and the corresponding lack of mobile phone directories, it may be that the community sees decreasing benefit in public number directories. This would especially be the case for non-business users. Many individuals now prefer to limit the provision of their information, rather than have it publicly available.[218]

72.234 The Australian Institute of Mercantile Agents submitted, however, that public number directories should be more readily available.

The IPND directories must be regarded as allowable public information. This is the only source of locator information our members have access to and yet availability of this data continually is challenged … Our industry is under the constant threat of banning access to information for debt collection purposes. The only persons assisted by such heavy handed misguided intervention are those who do not meet their contractual obligations.[219]

72.235 The ALRC does not have a view on whether public number directories are still desirable. It is clearly important, however, that subscribers to telecommunications services are informed that their personal information will be included in a public directory. It is unnecessary to provide for this duty in the Telecommunications Act, as the issue is dealt with adequately under the Privacy Act.[220] Further, in Chapter 73, the ALRC recommends that ACMA, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, should develop and publish guidance relating to privacy in the telecommunications industry. This guidance should address a telecommunications supplier’s obligation to inform an individual that their personal information may be included in a public number directory.

[218] Australian Communications and Media Authority, Submission PR 268, 26 March 2007.

[219] Institute of Mercantile Agents, Submission PR 101, 15 January 2007. See also Australian Finance Conference, Submission PR 294, 18 May 2007.

[220] The telecommunications industry is currently subject to NPP 1.3, which requires an organisation at or before the time it collects personal information from the individual to take reasonable steps to ensure that the individual is aware of the purposes for which the information is collected. NPP 5 requires an organisation to set out in a document clearly expressed policies on its management of personal information. This obligation would require a telecommunications supplier to indicate to individuals that their personal information may be included in a public directory.