Telstra is using information from the 100-point identity checks it conducts with customers to help target advertisements on its network of websites to highly relevant audiences as it aims to boost its online advertising revenues.
The company had amassed a database of more than 8.5 million individuals with individualised “Telstra IDs” in its database — a number that was exceeded only by the number of logged-in users that visit Facebook and Nine Entertainment Co’s digital arm Mi9 in Australia, sources said.
But the Telstra IDs the company assigns to its customers’ phone and computer IP addresses are said to be more accurate than any other database, making it a key player in the burgeoning world of big data.
While Facebook and Mi9 accounts are based largely on what you and others tell the company about yourself, Telstra is one of just a few categories of companies whose customers sign up for accounts using identity checks that involve showing a passport, birth certificate or driver’s licence that contains an exact date of birth.
The company that sells Telstra’s online advertising, MCN, revealed to The Australian that it was using information from Telstra’s 100-point ID checks.
MCN said it used an “ID targeting data platform” that could access a “highly accurate audience data set on consumers’ age, gender, postcode, income and more”.
MCN national digital sales director Nick Young said the platform relied on Telstra’s 100-point ID checks for its accuracy.
“About 50 to 60 per cent of our audience has a Telstra ID,” Mr Young said. “(That’s) around 8.5 million individuals.
“Through the fact that if you go into or buy a Telstra product you have to show 100 points of ID to get that, we know (the data is) correct,” he said.
“Because it’s based on a passport, it’s 99.9 per cent accurate.
“Through the data matching process, we’ve matched each individual computer to that ID or that household address.”
Mr Young said previously, demographic information about users was based on where they had been on the internet.
“We look at where they’ve been and we overlay that with the Telstra data.
“We can add depth to that,” he said.
Despite MCN’s admission, Telstra denied it used ID checks on customers to derive demographic information for advertising purposes.
“The MCN service uses aggregated, de-identified information drawn from multiple sources,” a Telstra spokesperson said.
“The types of information provided include things like the postcode where an account is registered.
“Personal information such as names, addresses or financial information of any kind is not provided.
“General geographic attributes are enhanced with aggregated demographic information sourced from other data sets such as information from the last census.”
It also contains a phone number for opting out, as required by chapter seven of the privacy principles on direct marketing.
But consumer watchdog group Choice said it was “concerning” that Telstra was using any information gained during ID checks for its own and its advertisers’ commercial gain.