Tonight’s 2016 Australian census stores names and addresses, prompting privacy, security outrage

Tonight’s 2016 Australian census stores names and addresses, prompting privacy, security outrage, by Jennifer Baker.

Anonymous hacker

[T]he Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will rather extraordinarily be storing names and addresses in addition to the usual census results.

Previous census forms have collected this information, but respondents were allowed to opt-in to having personally identifiable information retained. This time, the ABS wants to keep the information on record until 2020.

Software consultancy ThoughtWorks published an opinion:

Consider the impact on an individual should their information end up with a fraudster or violent ex-partner … “Not only is securing data difficult, when it is leaked it is impossible to retrieve. Consider that the NSA, one of the world’s most well-funded and capable security organisations, was unable to prevent the leaking of thousands of documents about its operations.

Will it be hacked?

IBM security architect Philip Nye tweeted that the census was almost certain to be hacked. He later deleted his comment — IBM has Australia’s census security contract — but not before media grabbed a screenshot.

What are the fines for non-compliance?

[F]ines range from $1,800 for providing false information to $180 per day for failing to submit the form. But the agency will have no real way to verify the answers provided by those who do complete the form as accurate. Failure to vote in the Federal Election last month resulted in only a $20 fine.

Comments John Ray:

The plans to retain name and address are clearly an excess. I gathered and used a lot of survey data in my research career and recording name and addresss is egregiously bad practice. It guarantees inaccurate responding. All that would have been needed for any conceivable research purpose would be to retain the name of the suburb.  Seeking any more than that is definitely fishy. …

The very claim that the data cannot be hacked will get all the world’s best hackers onto the problem in a race to be first to crack it.

Senators withhold names from ‘CCTV’ census, by Rosie Lewis.

Senators Nick Xenophon, Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam are vowing not to put their names on their census forms ­tonight amid claims the national survey has turned into a “mobile CCTV that follows every Australian.”

Comments Sinclair Davidson:

The fact of the matter is that the government already knows your name and where you live. It’s on the electoral roll.

The government already knows what you earn. The ATO have this data – and your name and your address. I imagine for many Xenophon voters Centrelink would have that information too.

The government already knows all your banking information.

The government already knows your browsing behaviour.

So telling the government all this information again is largely a waste of time and effort. …

The question … isn’t whether your data is safe with the ABS for 18 months or 4 years or whatever. It isn’t. Are we to believe that hackers won’t be able to hack the data in 18 months, but will be able to do so in 4 years?

[W]hy have the census at all? The government already has all the information it needs about you and your family. Except I suppose questions on ethnicity and religion – of course, there is no lawful purpose for the government to have that information. …

In the meantime a whole bunch of Senators will be engaging in civil disobedience. It will be hard for the authorities to avoid taking action. So crack out the popcorn.

UPDATE: How To Keep Your Name Off The Census Without Getting Fined, by Spandas Lui.

[A]ccording to Western Australia Census director David Weymouth, if you complete the survey and don’t provide your name, you won’t be fined. ABC Drive Perth radio host Jane Marwick spoke to him late last week about this:

Marwic: “If everything is filled out correctly, except the name, will I be fined?”

Weymouth: “I think the bottom line answer to that is no.”

You might not be able to get away with this on the online version of Census (assuming you can’t progress on the digital form unless you fill in your name) but there’s still time to get your hands on the paper version. … while it is preferred that the forms are all filled out by August 9, realistically, people have until September 23 to complete it.

hat-tip Matthew