Metadata retention is no worse than STALKING: Turnbull

Government wants to be a private investigator, not the secret police

Metadata retention, which George Brandis has most frequently described as reading the front of an envelope, is also like standing outside a lawyer's office watching who goes in and out.

That metaphor emerged perhaps accidentally from communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, in explaining why there's no need to exempt what many regard as privileged communications (such as between client and lawyer, or patient and doctor) from the data retention regime.

Speaking to ABC Radio's Fran Kelly, in a piece he's helpfully had transcribed and posted on his blog, Turnbull said the mere fact of a consultation isn't a secret.

Regarding the legal profession, he noted: “the fact that you or I have spoken to our lawyer, have sought advice from our lawyer, is not privileged. What is privileged is the content of that communication“.

Turnbull went on: “that information could be obtained if someone is standing outside the doctor’s surgery and sees me walking in”.

So there you go: the government's data retention scheme is not the Stasi-like mass invasion of privacy that activists believe it to be.

It's no worse, in fact, than being stalked by a private investigator to see who you talk to, which doctor you visit, which lawyer you consult – along with when and how often you do so. ®

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