SYDNEY - Telstra has been accused of tracking the internet use of its Next G mobile phone users and sending their internet history to a company in the United States.
One of the telco's customers discovered that when he visited a website using his Next G network in Australia, a server in the United States would visit the same address almost instantly.
Telstra says it is collecting the information for use in a new internet filter product, but internet users are outraged and are demanding the Australian Privacy Commissioner investigate.
The tracking was confirmed by Mark Newton, who up until late last year was one of the longest serving technical engineers at Australian internet company Internode.
When he saw rumours on a network administrator email list that Telstra was sending the URLs from Next G internet use to a company overseas, he set up a test.
"In real time, information about the URL that I was visiting was being sent offshore so that that offshore data centre could then make that second request," he said.
"It means if you go to abc.net.au on your Next G internet connection, both Telstra and the US company knows about it."
Mr Newton says he had no idea such information was going offshore.
"Australians should know when their private data is collected, what that data is going to be used for and who it is going to be disclosed to," he said. He says he has emailed Telstra, asking why it is sending internet address data to a third party.
"Privacy protections in the United States are very, very minimal. There are almost no controls at all on what an American company can do with private data that's been gathered from consumers," he said.
Users on the Australian broadband forum Whirlpool also want to know why the information is being sent, who it is being sent to, and why they were not told about it.
Telstra has admitted to sending data overseas.
Telstra spokeswoman Nicole McKechnie says the company has been collecting data for a one of its new products which will allow parents to block their children from accessing certain websites.
"We were trying to classify internet sites as part of a new tool to help parents and kids when they're surfing the net," she said.
"Cyberspace safety is a really important issue to address but we're obviously conscious of individual rights in that as well and we are going to be talking with key industry bodies to determine how next best to proceed."