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

Neill Cox neill at ingenious.com.au
Mon Apr 4 17:20:55 AEST 2016

IANAS (I am not a statistician) but,

The ABS has a web page addressing privacy concerns:

My understanding is that the census has always collected names and
addresses and always kept those on the paper records. Given that they're
moving to online data collection this change seems inevitable.

The change here is that the ABS is now storing the names and addresses
online and making that data available to researchers in anonymised forms.
The ABS are good at anonymising data and very careful about releasing even
tabular data that might be used to identify people.  If the population of a
category in a table is small enough that individuals can be identified they
won't release the data.

The question about religion is optional and always has been. If you don't
want to answer leave it blank.

I had thought that the paper forms were made available to genealogical
researchers after 99 years, but this is apparently opt-in.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 requires that raw census data is not

Frankly of all the agencies / businesses that might leak my data the ABS is
pretty much at the bottom of my list.

I can think of many other agencies (e.g. the ATO, the department of Health,
motor vehicle registries) that already collect my name, address and date of
birth as part of their normal business.

I used to work at the ABS in 80s and they took data protection very
seriously.  They are not a government department but a statutory authority
and they also take their independence very seriously.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the Census and I'm much more
concerned with how much advertising companies (I'm looking at you Google)
know about me.


On Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 4:37 PM, Steven Pickles <thatpixguy at gmail.com> wrote:

> The EFA has a page about this, including options for not participating.
> The most feasible one is just not being in a residence on census night.
> https://www.efa.org.au/privacy/census-2016/
> pix
> On 4 Apr 2016 3:20 pm, "Phillip Smith" <lists at fukawi2.nl> wrote:
>> > > Apparently although everyone is required to fill in their census form,
>> > > there's no law requiring people to give their correct name.  You can
>> > > fill it in as "John Doe" or even "Anonymous".
>> >
>> > IANAL, but I think section 15 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905
>> would beg to differ.
>> I had a brief read through it this morning and while IANAL either, it
>> seems the only way to (legally) get out of it is if your religious
>> beliefs prevent it, AND you have to be able to provide evidence as
>> such. Section 14.3:
>> > (3)  Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a person’s failure to
>> answer a question, or to supply particulars, relating to the person’s
>> religious beliefs.
>> > Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter
>> in subsection (3) (see subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code).
>> While I am firmly against the census being mandatory, and specifically
>> the changes regarding the retention of identifiable information, I'm
>> not sure if it falls under the responsibility of LA to lead such an
>> objection. Although I would not oppose LA lending support to another
>> organization more targetted towards this end (eg, EFA)
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Neill Cox
Ingenious Software
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