Technology aside, the ABS can’t communicate.


Census is all about statistics and one important statistic to remember from #Census2016 is no one can guarantee your privacy, not even the Government. The weakest link in any IT system is the human element and once your privacy is gone, you’re never going to get it back!

I took the time during #CensusFail to brush up on my statutory interpretation skills from law school. I located the legislation that enacts the powers of the census and had a read.  The purpose of the census is to “collect statistical information” yet the legislation is silent on its definition of “statistical information”.

I have no problem answering any of the Census questions truthfully and I believe in the objective the census intends to achieve, but I do have a problem with associating it to my identity. At the very minimum, the only identity specific information that needs to be captured to ensure the data can be interpreted is your post code, your age at time of census and gender. Your full name, address and date of birth is completely irrelevant for statistical purposes and I don’t consider it “statistical information”. (Unless of course the ABS intends to data mine how many Petros’s exist in Queensland).

Looking at the alternatives to this privacy challenge, I considered the possibility of omitting my full name, address and date of birth. Even doing so, by simply completing the census online, new metadata legislation and associated data retention laws would retain my IP address by design. In most scenarios across Australian households, that is sufficient to identify the subscriber of the Internet service which will identify the device that was used to access the Census website, which could identify YOU.

Privacy aside, I’m wondering why the public facing website of the ABS also went offline with the Census website. From an IT point of view, and I can only speculate, it would suggest the two live in the same data centre or at the very minimum share the same connection. Surely this design is not in the best interest of your privacy.

One thing remains certain and that is social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter continue to be at the forefront for communication during any disaster. It’s just a shame the ABS provided conflicting information on these platforms. Zero points for communicating to the public! Better luck next time.





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