Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has launched a class action against Optus after they mistakenly published the details of 50,000 customers. The data breach occurred when Optus published the names, home addresses, mobile and home phone numbers of customers in the White Pages.

As a result, they now face a payout figure of $40 million or more should judgement in the class action go against them. This cost is specific to the class action, other costs could also include associated fines with reportable data breaches.

According to the Daily Mail, Optus immediately requested the information be removed from White Pages online and notified affected customers. The company is working cooperatively with the privacy commissioner.

Optus told nearly 50,000 customers via a letter that their name, address, mobile and home phone numbers had been wrongly published in the White Pages, run by Sensis, against their wishes.

At this point, the known details are:

  • 50,000 or so customers details were mistakenly published which makes this one of Australia’s biggest data breaches.
  • It is also believed to be a first of its kind action against a telco
  • The breach was discovered and self-reported by Optus

Already there appears to be some finger-pointing between Optus and Sensis who run White Pages. In a statement to the Daily mail, Optus claim up to 40,000 of the 50,000 affected customers already had their details published. Sensis returned fire noting that this was strictly an Optus issue. The legal firm handling the class action – Maurice Blackburn – is requesting anyone who believes they were affected by this to contact them to discuss their options moving forward.

We reached out to Optus for comment and received a similar response from an Optus spokesperson:

  • Optus takes its privacy obligations seriously and we regularly review and audits our processes to ensure our customers information is managed securely.
  • When undertaking a review of our records against Sensis listings last year, we identified inconsistencies.
  • We requested that Sensis remove the information from their online directory and we notified all customers who may have been affected.
  • Optus is working co-operatively with the Privacy Commissioner on this investigation.

There will undoubtedly be more to come from this story as it will set a precedent in the area of data breach. We will continue to monitor the developing story.