ICC insists nothing sinister in accessing residents details
IPSWICH City Council leads the way in its requests for residents' metadata amongst councils in eastern states but has defended its actions amid criticism from former state political candidate Patricia Petersen.
The Sydney Morning Herald had reported that six local councils in eastern states were requesting residents' metadata to chase minor infringements and listed Ipswich City Council as making more requests than any other council, with 21 in the financial year ended June 30, 2014.
Ms Petersen has accused Ipswich City Council of increasing its "spying" on Ipswich residents by its requests for metadata.
Metadata is basically a person's telecommunications footprint. It can include the email address of both the sender and receiver of an email, the location of a person making and receiving a phone call, along with the time and length of such calls.
Councils are permitted under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to request metadata without a warrant.
Ms Petersen said council was accessing residents' contact telephone numbers for "totally inappropriate purposes".
"Ipswich City Council has accessed residents' contact phone numbers for the purpose of finding out which media outlets those individuals have spoken to and confided in. It is a total breach of privacy," she said.
Cr Andrew Antoniolli, council's health and community safety committee chair, rejected Ms Petersen's claims and said she was wrong.
He said there was nothing sinister about the metadata requests, which were made "to obtain contact details associated with phone numbers after council was unable to access them in any other reasonable way to investigate an alleged offence occurring as a result of a complaint to council".
"Council receives basic details that assist in identifying relevant individuals associated with alleged offences," Cr Antoniolli said.
"The requests were made after council exhausted all other reasonable avenues to obtain this information. They were in relation to investigations into alleged offences relating to issues such as illegal advertising and noise nuisance."
Ms Petersen, while not philosophically opposed to Safe City cameras, suggested they were being "used for dubious purposes."
"There are city safe cameras in the Ipswich Mall. I had two election signs stolen only metres away from Cr Andrew Antoniolli's office during the election. The stolen signs were reported to police. Police later told me that Ipswich City Council cameras didn't see who took them," she said.
"This demonstrates to me that the Safe City cameras are there to serve the interests of Ipswich City Council and individual Councillors - not the community."
Cr Antoniolli refuted Ms Petersen's comments but was not surprised that she had made them.
"Council has no interest in, has ever applied for or would ever be eligible for any other information pertaining to mobile phone use than name or address details of the registered phone owner," he said
"The claims made by Patricia Petersen are absurd and outrageous, but yet unsurprising.
"I'm sure that if Ms Petersen reported the theft of her election signage from the CBD, particularly in an area covered by Safe City cameras, that Safe City would have been happy to work with police to assist in the apprehension of an offender if indeed such a theft occurred.
"Council was successful in recently prosecuting Ms Petersen over illegal election signage in the Ipswich Magistrates Court.
"She was found guilty of the offences and a penalty of $1650 was imposed. She was ordered to pay the sum of $1500 professional costs and the sum of $86.70 in court costs."