In June 2013, Ben Grubb, a Fairfax reporter, requested access to “all metadata information” stored by Telstra relating to his mobile phone services.
Telstra refused the request on the basis that Mr Grubb’s identity could not be ascertained through the metadata and that it was therefore not personal information as defined under the Australian Privacy Act. The Privacy Commission disagreed, saying that although the metadata didn’t directly identify Mr Grubb, Mr Grubb’s identity was reasonably ascertainable by cross-matching the metadata against Telstra’s various network and records management systems.
The Commissioner noted that Telstra had a pool of over 120 staff who engaged this kind of data retrieval and that it used cross-matching for internal purposes and when responding to law enforcement agency requests.
Telstra has appealed the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.