Vodafone plans to log what websites customers visit

Telco said customers want to be able to track how they are using their mobile data allowance

Vodafone has revealed it is working a project that will record for up to 90 days what online services customers access. Customers would be able to access the information to understand how they had used their mobile data quota.

Matthew Lobb, ‎general manager industry strategy and public policy, revealed the project at a Senate inquiry into the possible revision of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

Lobb said that Vodafone's understanding of what the government is proposing with regards to metadata retention is that carriers will store IP identifiers of customers "so when a law enforcement person asks who accessed that website we will be able to advise the name and address of that customer."

Currently, the ability for a telco to link an IP address to an individual customer is not fully developed, Lobb told the inquiry. That's because internal and public IP addresses are assigned dynamically for each Internet session on a mobile device using the telco's network.

However, Vodafone is examining a system that will retain that IP data and link it to a customer.

"Now at this stage, that IP identifier system within telcos is in its infancy," Lobb said. "It's not been a traditional capability that has been a part of the way we store data, but it is something that is evolving."

Retaining that historical data would help the telco's customers understand their use of mobile data services.

Generally the billing of mobile data usage has involved "how much are you using, not what do you do and where did you go," Lobb said.

"That said, customers have sought to have that information as part of ordinary business, because often there's a billing dispute or something like that and they'd like to know... what actually... they used their data for."

"Just to confirm — you're telling us that the transition that Vodafone has embarked on is to be able to keep effectively session logs of what people do while they're online is being driven by your customer base?" said Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who is chairing the inquiry.

"Because that to me is running counter to the idea I had, and what you introduced before, that competitive pressure is actually pushing you in the direction of greater privacy rather than the greater potential for intrusion," the senator said.

"We think that majority of customers will appreciate knowing how they use their data and what they use their data for," Lobb said.

Data retained by Vodafone's system would depend on its final design but it would be likely to retain Internet domains but not details of what individual Web pages customers viewed or what they did on a particular website, Lobb indicated.

Quizzed by Ludlam, Lobb said the telco was "on the cusp" of having the capability to tell customers what host IP addresses they had visited but not which individual pages on a website they visited.

Vodafone has been approached for more details about the project.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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