The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has recently announced that people being surveyed for the Census can no longer retain their anonymity. The ABS will now retain the names and addresses of all contributors to the 2016 Australian Census[1]. The previous Census introduced retention of private data on an opt-in basis, but this time around, retention of private data is to be compulsory.

“Whilst we don’t believe that the ABS is planning to collect identifiable information for nefarious purposes, there are serious privacy concerns with collecting names and addresses along with all of the other personal information gathered in the Census,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “A future government could simply re-collate the data and use the information to target opponents based on religion, career or ethnicity. When potential abuse can only be thwarted by the good-will of future governments, the risk to personal safety is too great.”

The Census is a valuable tool for understanding the characteristics of the Australian population and for determining where services are needed. To have the most accurate snap-shot of the Australian population, privacy must be respected or people will take steps to protect their own privacy from the state. This was noted by the ABS themselves in a report tabled to a parliamentary inquiry 1997[2].

“We call on the ABS to drop the compulsory collection of names and addresses to ensure that the data collected both respects the privacy of all Australians and is of the highest quality,” Mr Frew continued. “We understand the desire for accurate information about the demographics of Australia, but this is not happening in isolation. The government is working to erode privacy through data retention, warrantless surveillance and other methods such as collating data through MyGov. This is being done with little consultation and enough is enough.”

“We call on anyone concerned about giving their names to the ABS to boycott the Census. Unless the compulsory collection of personally identifying information is once again made voluntary, the risks to personal privacy is just too great.”

The Census and Statistic Act 1905[3] includes fines for refusing to accurately fill out the Census, it is important that anyone engaging in a boycott understands the risk of being fined and people may wish to take another course of action to protect their privacy from the ABS.

[1] http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/Retention+of+names+and+addresses+collected
[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/9ED3C8D4C8751750CA2571250073F1F1?opendocument
[3] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2015C00247

5 comments on “Pirate Party Calls for Census Boycott Due to Privacy Concerns

  1. Dreadful! Next, they’ll be keeping tax, social security, and electoral roll information on every Australian!

  2. Of COURSE it can “enable a richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia through the combination of Census data with other survey and administrative data”. Just as we could require a blood, stool and urine test on top of that which would allow genetic, health, biological “dynamic statistical picture” – but that does drastically change the whole idea of census as being a broad sweeping survey of the population to something that’s hugely intrusive and identifies individuals.

    Seems like someone’s just gone a bit nuts on wanting to cross-match everything – just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    Privacy vs visibility is always a contentious issue – but seems like this might have stepped over the line for me of where public good swaps to privacy loss above acceptable limits.

    Worth remembering also that having all this shit sitting in a monster database becomes a rather tempting target for identity theft and as the above mentions: political attention (e.g. future conservative government minister: “Oh, can you just give me the street addresses of any of those LGBT types”) – as anyone who has worked in software dev would know: the use of prod data for testing/dev work is quite common – and the offshoring/outsourcing to lowest costbase is a huge risk for this sort of thing.

  3. Seriously, you should read the privacy impact assessment and rethink what you’re saying, because it’s just not true. They’re going to considerable lengths to ensure that names cannot be matched to addresses or to the actual census data, while retaining enough information to match new incoming data with the census data. They can’t simply go back through the data they have and “re-collate” it to match names to census data.

  4. So their going to keep the data separate but still be able to match names with data.

    decided to retain names and addresses collected in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing…the combination of Census data with other survey and administrative data

    They are relying on the privacy act, however the act is different for different states. In SA this is horrendous, as we don’t have any privacy rights, our rights are decided by 2 cranky public servants and 4 old lawyers. The state government has time and again breached rules others have in place simply stating the committee allowed it.

    Further to this, we have no rules on private information on people in other states, so SA State government could easily become the data mining capital for the other states

  5. At least the Pirate Party is raising the issue. The others are hoping people stay asleep until after the Census.

    Nathan above is correct. Although I doubt this latest identity-card-by-stealth is the result of ‘someone going a little bit nuts’. Imo, Nathan’s being overgenerous there. I think it’s a major plank in an agenda and I suspect very strongly that the drivers of the operation choose to hide behind the stooges we pay to play the roles of ‘government’, ‘opposition’ and ‘politicians’ generally.

    Of COURSE there are serious ramifications for every Australian. The ABS’s own surveys and research made them aware years ago that Australians do not want such an irrevocable pillage of their privacy. And it’s for LIFE. What this Census will do cannot be undone. Which is why the announcement about the permanent retention of names was slipped in sneakily in the days just before Christmas 2015.

    The ABC and privacy bodies have repeatedly alerted Australians as to the seriousness and risks inherent in permanently recorded names with data. But which *politicians* have raised the issue publicly? All keeping their heads low. They know who rules Australia and who butters their bread.

    No. Do not even attempt to minimise this situation to me. Anytime this issue is raised, paid online traitors try the usual tactics of ridicule and meaningless assurances. Talk about Judases

    So good on you, Pirate Party. Of all the politicians and political parties I’ve questioned to date, you are the ONLY ones who’ve raised concerns. My vote (and that of all those I’m able to influence) will be directly impacted by this issue and by those prepared to stand up — and those who have not

Comments are closed.