Ex-Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ben Grubb has had a long running legal battle with Australian telecommunications company Telstra over access to his own metadata. The Australian ‘security’ laws decree that all ISPs must retain two years of ‘metadata’ - a very poorly defined and broad concept - for ‘national security’ reasons.
Grubb set about trying to find out exactly what was in that cache of data, and has been through several court cases to establish what he is allowed to access. Unfortunately he has been stopped at the last hurdle, with the Australian Federal Court ruling that he cannot in fact have access to his own data.
Whilst the ruling seems to have been made on points-of-law rather than blanket ‘citizens can’t access their data’ grounds, it’s still incredibly disappointing. When a local council or debt agency can collect the data but the person generating it can’t, it certainly breaks any trust we can have that the data will be protected. Especially concerning now the fears that the data may end up being used for totally non-security related issues appear to be coming true.