Thursday, 19 January 2017 13:22

All metadata is not personal, Federal Court rules Featured

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The Australian Federal Court has effectively ruled that part of the metadata of an individual stored by telecommunications companies does not constitute personal data and therefore need not be handed over to said individual.

Today's verdict, delivered by a full bench of the court, was the latest step in a long-running saga for former Fairfax Media technology journalist Ben Grubb.

Back in 2013, he had asked Telstra for access to the metadata that the telco was retaining about him, and that it would hand over to government agencies. His request was knocked back by Telstra's privacy department.

Grubb then made a complaint to the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. He obtained a favourable ruling, with Pilgrim deciding that the telco had got in the way of his privacy by refusing to hand over the metadata.

Telstra appealed this to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and had its appeal upheld. When Pilgrim reacted by appealing, the case went to the Federal Court.

The case hinged on whether the information Grubb was seeking was about him, or about the service that Telstra was delivering to him.

The telco had refused to hand over IP addresses, URLs visited, locations of mobile towers used, and inbound call data, as it said this did not fall under personal information.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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