Next Tuesday is the day Australians must fill in—correctly—their census forms, or face a fine. However, many may be willing to take that risk as the 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. This has provoked both privacy and security concerns. The bureau’s former chief statistician Bill McLennan called it “the most significant invasion of privacy ever perpetrated on Australians by the ABS,” and even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak weighed in to say the data retention plans were “unethical.”
Others claim the ABS cannot adequately protect sensitive data. According to reports the ABS has had 14 data breaches since 2013.
The bureau says none of the breaches were related to census information, but the Australian Privacy Foundation said it still highlights how difficult it is to secure vast amounts of personal information once collected. Others pointed out that in the past names and addresses were not retained, making the census data a less attractive target for hackers.
Australian Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack told reporters on Wednesday that there has “never been a breach of the actual census data, [and] the ABS assures us that this won’t happen into the future. They have assured me as the minister responsible, they’ve assured the government, that they have every protocol in place, every process in place to ensure that there isn’t a breach this time.”
Not everyone is convinced. Software …