Leichhardt to ban metadata use

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Leichhardt Council in inner-west Sydney has become the first Council in New South Wales to ban the use of metadata for compliance or any other investigative purposes.

Metadata is information typically referring to mobile phone or online records. It includes the identity of a subscriber and the source, destination, date, time, duration and type of communication.

Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne said the step to ban any future use of such data by Council was taken in order to protect the civil liberties and privacy of local citizens.

“Australian Councils are increasingly accessing metadata in order to determine information about who their residents are speaking to and to pinpoint their location at certain times,” Mayor Byrne said.

“The Federal Government has also greatly expanded the use of metadata and there is a real danger of citizens being subject to ever increasing surveillance.

“We have taken the step to rule out the use of metadata once and for all as the privacy of our residents must be protected, as must their basic human right to privacy.”

Previously, Councils could access metadata information simply by application to the various internet service providers, but the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 (Act) has introduced a number of qualifications to this.

Councils must now apply to the Communications Minister to be given permission to be treated as a criminal law enforcement agency in order to access metadata for compliance or any other reason.

Leichhardt has now ruled out the prospect of taking any such action in the future.