- A group associated with conservative politics, C|T Group, has been given access to a database containing millions of Australian unlisted phone numbers.
- Australia’s communications watchdog authorised access to the database for ‘electoral matter research’.
- According to a privacy statement obtained under a freedom of information request, the group intends to use it to poll Australians on their perceptions of policies, candidates and parties for the Liberal Party of Australia.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
A political polling firm aligned with the Liberal Party of Australia is the first group to ever be given access to a list of 27 million unlisted Australian phone numbers and their postcodes for ‘electoral matter research’.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) granted access to unlisted phone numbers on the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) to the Crosby|Textor Research Strategies Results Pty Ltd and its subsidiary Enterprise Marketing & Research Services Pty Ltd in May 2019, as first reported by Michael West Media.
The purpose of the research was described as to “understand the perceptions of Australian voters through policies, candidates and parties” through robo-polling on behalf of the Liberal Party, according to a privacy impact assessment obtained by freedom of information request.
The results are anonymised and will be presented to the Liberal Party in a PowerPoint presentation, according to the assessment. It also says that none of information in the IPND will be given to the Liberal Party.
A Guardian investigation last year found that the firm ran a network of ‘news’ Facebook Pages for clients “ranging from the Saudi government to major polluters”.
The authorisation to the phone numbers, which has not yet been supplied, ends after 12 months of use.
The set, which has since rebranded to C|T Group, has worked extensively with conservative political parties and causes around the world including the with Liberal Party in federal and state elections, and on the pro-Brexit campaign.
Under the Telecommunications Regulations 2001, the ACMA is responsible for approving research authorisations to groups for non-commercial work on public health, federal, state and local government electoral matters, and Commonwealth government policy.
In the Regulations, an electoral matter is defined as “a matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in: a) an election to an Australian Parliament or to a local government authority; or a referendum under a law of the Commonwealth or a law of a State or Territory.”
The ACMA doesn’t charge for IPND approvals. But Telstra, who manage the database, charge $3,000 to apply, $3,6969 each quarter to access the information, and $0.01 per phone number per year.
The use of the IPND is policed via a complaints system. The ACMA can revoke authorisation if a group breaches a condition of authorisation, and can be penalised $2,220.
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