The Australian Bureau of Statistics is pressing ahead with plans to retain names and addresses obtained in the 2016 Census despite having commissioned advice warning against it a decade ago.
Crikey has reported the ABS decided it would retain the names and addresses of every individual in the country collected as part of the 2016 Census. According to the ABS media release, this would “provide a richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia”, particularly when coupled with matching up census data “with other survey and administrative data”.
To address privacy concerns, the ABS commissioned a Privacy Impact Assessment that had given the idea the all-clear. Retaining names and addresses – to be held separately from the main census information, the ABS says – will enable “more efficient survey operations, reducing the cost to taxpayers and the burden on Australian households”.
In announcing the decision, what the ABS didn’t say was that when it proposed the same retention for the 2006 census, it was told by a privacy expert it was a bad idea. In 2005, the ABS commissioned Nigel Waters to conduct a privacy impact assessment report. Waters is a privacy sector veteran who was deputy Australian federal privacy commissioner in the 1990s.