[Linux-aus] Census data risks - retention and correlation of records

Adam Nielsen a.nielsen at shikadi.net
Sat Apr 2 14:58:00 AEDT 2016

> > Your responses are completely anonymous. Unlike say, an upcoming
> > nationwide census. But that's a different topic ;-)  
> Is this something we should respond to, in our broader role? It's not
> really an 'open' issue, it's kind of the opposite of data freedom in a
> sense, but it is about data privacy...

It's freedom in the sense that I'm free to keep my code and identity
private if I choose to, but apparently I'm not free to keep my personal
information private if the ABS come knocking.  I'm sure people wouldn't
be so keen on free software if part of that freedom meant you were free
to have the full name and home address of every person who ever
contributed to a project.

Not that this is all that new, I didn't know the ABS could compel you
to share all your personal information either, and now that I know this,
I'm much less happy about the whole census in general.

> I am quite unhappy about (a) the change in policy and (b) the lack of
> consultation in the change.
> For those who are unaware - the ABS now intend to retain your personal
> information (previously destroyed) *and* correlate it with other data.

Thanks for the links, I didn't realise this change had taken place either.
Now I'm not so keen on answering the August census honestly, in protest.

Maybe this year instead of everyone putting Jedi Knight as their religion,
we could all write "Private" and skip as many questions as possible.
There is already some expectation of widespread civil disobedience because
of this change, and perhaps this is the only way to get the message across.

The fact that the ABS could still literally knock on your door and require
you to share this info along with the bank statements and other paperwork
to prove its correctness still doesn't sit easy with me though.  I would
have no problem at all if there was a choice involved, but as soon as it
becomes mandatory I have a big problem with it.

> An ABS census hack would be the most comprehensive identity theft of all
> time...

I wonder how we can make that happen...?  Part of me would love to see
all that data go public to prove that no system is perfect and anyone
who thinks so is a fool, but the fallout from it would be disastrous.

> It is just too risky to provide key personal information on every single
> Australian in a database that could be exploited by staff or hackers, and
> there really is no good reason to do so. The ABS should return to their
> previous policy of destroying personal identifying data and only retaining
> census data itself.

The only good that could come of it is making identity theft easier to
clean up after.  It can be a headache now trying to prove you weren't
the one who applied for that credit card, but if every second person has
had their identity stolen then that process might at least become


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