Culture

The Guy Trying To See All Your Metadata Is Using A Secret Messaging App That Hides All His Metadata

Not your best move, Malcolm Turnbull.

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Communications Minister and steadily-balding man Malcolm Turnbull has a reputation for flair; he’s widely considered the best speaker in Parliament, and has carefully cultivated an image halfway between “university professor you’d maybe like to bang” and “cool older relative who wears a leather jacket and upsets your parents”.

G'day chicks.

G’day chicks.

He’s also a wee bit of a hypocrite when it comes to mandatory data retention. For years Turnbull was one of Australia’s loudest and most eloquent voices on the dangers of letting the government hoover up all your online information like a vast, malevolent vacuum cleaner with the power to arrest you, most notably in his 2012 Alfred Deakin Lecture where he said data retention would have a “chilling effect on free speech”. Once he became Communications Minister, though, Turnbull not only conveniently forgot his long-held views on internet freedom, but is now overseeing the introduction of the very kind of data surveillance he once so readily spoke out against.

Now it seems he does genuinely value internet privacy — but only when it applies to himself. Earlier this afternoon the Australian reported that Turnbull is one of a number of government ministers “using a secret messaging service to communicate, in which their ­corres­pondence self-destructs”. The app, called Wickr, advertises itself as a “top-secret messenger” that allows you to “escape the internet” by allowing you to send messages that self-destruct, periodically wipes deleted files, and — you guessed it — deletes all metadata relating to the messages you send, including timestamps, geolocation and device information. That’s exactly the kind of information the government — with Turnbull in the driver’s seat — has been pushing to collect on every Australian internet user.

The Australian reckons Turnbull has been using the app “to discuss the leadership crisis and any movement in numbers” without leaving any trace, and also probably because his iMessage inbox is being flooded with emails from people cc’ing him and Attorney-General George Brandis in on all their stuff to cut out the data-retention middleman. Interesting that the guy trying to access everyone’s metadata is so keen to erase his own.