Sam Petherbridge


The Australian Governments has recently introduced laws that would force telecommunications companies to store metadata for two years, under the banner of counter-terrorism. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing wrong with the work that the government does in keeping us safe, however, given that number of hacks and breaches that occur these days, there are just too many risks.

Metadata that is collected by telecommunications companies can be used to track your every movement. In the hands of the wrong people, such information can be used to tell someone if you are at home.

Several years ago a German politician, Malte Spitz sued German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom to get all the metadata that they had on him. He successfully got them to hand over a copy of this data, which he has turned into a visulisation that would scare many people and show just how invasive this data is. The 35830 data points used to make this visualisation have been made available to the public. Malte has gone on to give a speech on at TED titled ‘Your Phone Company is Watching’.

The amount of detail that metadata contains is enough to scare me and make me question just how much information does my phone company have on me?

Recently Telstra Australia’s largest telecommunications company has admitted that it currently has 3000 terabytes worth of metadata. In 3000 terabytes you could store approximately 1,500,000,000 photos!

While we live in an age where either government or private enterprise track most of our activities, we must start to question just how much information do they need?

At the end of the day, we are always going to struggle to stop our telecommunications providers collecting information on us. However, when it comes to the Internet and companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, we can try to stop trackers or decide which trackers to allow using services like Ghostery.

Note: This article was updated in November 2019 to fix the typos of my younger self.

© 2011-2021 Sam Petherbridge