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Thanks to Australian data retention laws, which came into effect late last year, many government agencies (including the RSPCA and Medicare) are likely to know more about you than you think. The source of their knowledge is metadata – descriptive data that gives context and purpose to information or records. But how much do lawyers understand of it?

Four experts in digital forensics and electronic discovery helped to decode metadata for an audience of more than 50 lawyers at the Law Society of NSW for the second event in the FLIP Inquiry Series: Behind the Buzzwords. Led by LSJ journalist Melissa Coade, the panellists answered questions on why understanding metadata is crucial for modern lawyers.

Susan Bennett, the principal of Sibenco Legal & Advisory, explained why understanding this buzzword was particularly important for law enforcement. “The reason metadata is so important for the pursuit of criminal enforcement and detecting criminal activity is that if you have enough metadata, you pretty much know what people are up to,” said Bennett.

Digital forensics expert Shengshi Zhao from Clayton Utz noted that a host of technology and devices are already tracking citizens. Zhao advised not to focus on how much information is out there, but rather how data will be used by government, where it is kept, and who it is being shared with.

Bennet and Zhao joined two other legal and technology experts, Gabor Szathmari and Erick Gunawan, to discuss metadata at the event supported by Law in Order. To catch up on the event via a podcast, head to