back to article Telstra: we don't collect the metadata the government wants now

Yet again, the coaching that spooks and bureaucrats have given Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis has proven to be at odds with the realities of the telecommunications industry. In today's hearing into the government's metadata retention scheme, dominant telco Telstra said it does not retain any IP address assignments …

  1. frank ly

    "... it does not retain any IP address assignments ..."

    IP address assignments on a mobile network change every time you connect, in the simple tests that I've done. What they probably do is retain the customer ID.

  2. Scoular

    Telstra should not care where you go

    Telstra has an obvious need to know who you are for billing purposes but probably has little interest in where you went. The government wants to know everything.

  3. Paul 129

    Data Retention

    Its interesting to see that Australia, Britain and the US are all trying to impose the same thing at the same time, warrantless.

    Does this imply some sort of shared capability that they want to put in place. With the purchase price being hidden in every broadband bill?

    I can only think that they are actually fearful of Chinese exploiting the firmware on all the systems it produces, and this is actually going to be used for cyber defence.

    Everything else, religious extremists etc.... How the stuff will it not end up a white elephant?

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    Move along

    ...these aren't the metadata you're looking for...

  5. chugs

    Hey Chirgs,

    Having worked for various wholesale and retail telcos the argument Telstra doesn't retain IP addresses for mobile service usage is incorrect.

    A record of the IP address and the mobile service number exists in order to bill the usage to mobile number. At one telco I worked for the core usage/network would send files of usage data to a system called Netflow.

    Such usage logs retained every IP that traffic came from, and went to in relation to the customer - date/time is every 5 minutes. Obviously if your billing for external traffic but intranet traffic is for "free" then such usage still must be mediated for so as to ensure you don't overbill the customer (and that you can prove your charges).

    The thing is that these systems that retain the usage data are significant in size. They're RAID arrays with significant writing and reading going on. They have scripts that delete older data as newer data is loaded. Customer Service teams use them to justify usage disputes, Billing and Finance teams use the data for production and accounting analysis. Reporting / business warehouse databases are collecting data from them. There are scripts and other systems monitoring for spikes of usage and such. Consequently the cost and maintenance of these systems is not inconsequential an amount. Furthermore adding load can exacerbates existing problems, resulting in errors and lost data. This is a significant risk is these systems and the ones downstream to it are production systems which run business critical functions. The telcos are right, piggy backing off these systems and collecting usage data would not be a small thing. Politically and ethically I can see the senior leadership preferring the government store data.

    The problem is that the government is already receiving via FTP service bulk collection of phone records and are receiving such data from at least one major telco that I know of.

    I can see the internal debate with the government gibbly reasoning that if it can bulk collect voice records so easily then why not IP data.

    On a side note; the Inspector General of Intelligence in a SMH article (Ben Grubb) said categorically they are not bulk collect voice records of telco customers. This is a lie and I have the evidence to prove it.

    1. Flat Phillip

      Why would they retain the IP address for billing? They don't need it.

      "User 1234567 downloaded 15 MB at time X" versus "User 1234567 with IP address downloaded 15 MB at time X" doesn't give the carrier any more information. The ones I've seen generally try to aggregate the data as soon as they can for data storage reasons. It costs 1/12th of the price to store hourly data usage versus 5 minutes and from a billing dispute use, the two are pretty much identical. So yes it comes off the actual production systems in short intervals but its only until its "rolled up".

      Admittedly, its been a while, but it would mean its a backward step.

      There is also the required level of accuracy. The level for operations stuff (think MRTG etc) is pretty low. The level for billing is much higher but still leaves some leeway. The level of accuracy required to say User 1234567 is a terrorist/pedo/pick your boogieman is even higher still. Making sure something is accurate (whatever that means) costs money.

    2. RealFred

      Why would you take any notice of Ben Grubb. He's a journalist for the SMH

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1:1 netflow is no longer available

    1:1 NetFlow isn't possible in any of the recent ISP designs. The vendors don't simply make gear which will do that (the gear will do sampled or aggregated NetFlow and you can use that for billing and network engineering, but the government doesn't want that: it wants 1 Netflow record per TCP/UDP connection to a website). As ISPs have upgraded to the newer equipment they've been forced to rework their billing designs. Whereas a decade ago 1:1 Netflow was part of what ISPs collected to do their business, these days I think only one large Australian ISP is using it.

    It seems to me that this is the problem: law enforcement are behind the times and think that 1:1 NetFlow is still being collected.

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