Life-saving changes for telecommunications legislation

Changes enable police and emergency services to locate missing people and those at risk of serious harm more quickly.

The changes to the Telecommunications Act 1997 come after the vital information disclosure bill was passed through the Senate.

Telcos will now be better equipped to provide law enforcement and emergency services with voluntary information and assistance if it would help prevent a ‘serious’ threat to the life or health of a person.

This removes the previous requirement for a threat to also be ‘imminent,’ which is often impossible to prove. This will speed up the process of telcos providing information to police which could help better pinpoint the location of a person who could be at serious risk.

Stronger privacy protections, consent-based safeguards and oversight measures have also been introduced to ensure only necessary and potentially life-saving disclosures are made, along with more detailed record-keeping requirements.

Steps to make changes to the Act were taken after the NSW Deputy State Coroner raised concerns with the Minister for Communications in mid-October 2022, following inquests into two tragic and separate cases of missing residents in NSW.