Australian Privacy Commissioner decides that most metadata is personal information

| May 4, 2015

In a groundbreaking decision, and following a worldwide trend, journalist Ben Grubb just won a legal battle with Telstra for access to his metadata. Malcolm Crompton has some background information.

In April, I posted a blog describing why Personal Information is more than you think.

In the blog, I described the worldwide trend in in the courts and regulators rulings that personal information constituted a wider range of information than some of the traditional, restricted concepts such as name, age, address etc.

This ranged from the England and Wales Court of Appeal in Google v. Vidal-Hall to the NSW Civil and Administrative Decisions Tribunal in Office of Finance and Services v APV and APW [2014] NSWCATAP 88 (21 November 2014).

As foreshadowed then, the Privacy Commissioner of Australia has been asked to consider these kinds of issues in a complaint by journalist Ben Grubb against Telstra.

This week is Privacy Awareness Week. In the first day of PAW, the Privacy Commissioner has released his Determination: Ben Grubb and Telstra Corporation Limited [2015] AICmr 35 (1 May 2015).

As anticipated, the Privacy Commissioner has taken a similar approach. The devil is in the detail, but in effect, he has ruled that a wide range of metadata is personal information and that Ben can have access to much of it, but not all of it (such as information that might compromise the privacy of others). Ben is clearly pleased: his first article since the Determination was made is titled Me and my metadata: How I beat Telstra after my 22-month legal battle. Telstra has indicated that it will be appealing the decision.

The appeal may be a good thing. As Mark Burdon, a law academic from University of Queensland, noted at the PAW breakfast to launch the Week, it is time for more jurisprudence on privacy.

Watch this space. There will be more action on these issues!



  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    May 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    Ben Grubb and Telstra

    Thanks Malcolm for your tireless work to keep us informed about this important issue. I'll certainly be "watching this space".