Aus­tralian Federal Court rules on what as­pects of meta­data are deemed ‘per­sonal in­for­ma­tion’


APC Australia - - Tech­notes - Sharmishta Sarkar

A land­mark rul­ing de­liv­ered re­cently by the Aus­tralian Federal Court has re­de­fined ‘per­sonal in­for­ma­tion’ or meta­data col­lected by tel­cos un­der Aus­tralia’s manda­tory data re­ten­tion pol­icy. This in­for­ma­tion in­cludes the lo­ca­tion, tim­ing, des­ti­na­tion and du­ra­tion of calls and texts, IP ad­dresses, URLs vis­ited and ge­olo­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the court, data is ‘per­sonal’ if an in­di­vid­ual is the ac­tual sub­ject of that in­for­ma­tion — mean­ing brows­ing his­tory, IP ad­dress and lo­ca­tion are not pro­tected by Aus­tralian pri­vacy laws as they re­late to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices, not the per­son. This was the end of an on­go­ing bat­tle be­tween the Aus­tralian Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner and Tel­stra af­ter jour­nal­ist Ben Grubb asked the telco for his per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Thwarted by the telco’s pri­vacy depart­ment, Grubb took the com­plaint to the Com­mis­sioner who supported the journo. Tel­stra ap­pealed to the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ap­peals Tri­bunal, where the telco emerged vic­to­ri­ous. The Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner then took the mat­ter to court, where his ef­forts in hav­ing ev­ery­thing that could be used to iden­tify an in­di­vid­ual be pro­tected by the Pri­vacy Act fi­nally came to a halt.

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