The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) website has an interesting article describing an experiment where they have released the mobile phone metadata of one of their reporters, Will Ockenden, and asked readers to identify what it revealed about him.
A lot of information can be obtained from telephone and internet metadata and the Newsblog has highlighted this in previous posts (see here), but these have all involved professional researchers. What is interesting about the ABC experiment is that the data was released to members of the public who were asked to identify what it revealed about the reporter.
Despite the amateur nature of the investigators, it was amazing what they could discover about his movements and lifestyle. For example, the bus route and stops he gets off at on his way to work were identified, as were the domestic flights he took. Some people were even able to identify the times that he got stuck on his way to work because a moveable bridge lifted up.
Australia has recently introduced legislation to require metadata to be retained by phone and internet operators. The ABC experiment once again shows the privacy issues associated with metadata retention and how it is much more than just “billing information” as so often claimed by Governments who want to access it.