The privacy commissioner is talking with Telstra after a fire saw text messages sent to the wrong people

Photo: James Alcock/Getty Images.

The Privacy Commissioner’s office is in touch with Telstra after yesterday’s fire in northern Sydney saw text messages sent to the wrong numbers.

SMS messages were delivered to strangers after the Chatswood exchange fire disrupted the Telstra network nationally, forcing the telco to shut down the service.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which includes the privacy commissioner, confirmed Telstra had notified them of the potential privacy problem.

“We will remain in contact with Telstra as they continue to respond to the situation,” said an OAIC spokesperson. He urged Telstra customers with concerns about the whereabouts of their personal information to contact the OAIC.

Messaging services were restored progressively last night, and the telco’s CEO Andy Penn labelled the incident “extraordinarily unusual” and that the system was switched off to safeguard customer privacy.

“I’ve never known that to happen before,” he said. “Some SMS messages were corrupted, which resulted in potentially some of those going to the incorrect address.”

“It’s very disappointing for our customers, I just want to just acknowledge the impact that would have had on a number of our customers and apologise for that.”

While social media was full of examples of comical messages sent to complete strangers, some users raised concerns about two-factor authentication texts going to the wrong people.

Two-factor authentication is used by companies like banks and Google to send out a code via SMS as an extra layer of online protection on top of passwords.

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