Census: Is our data safe?

Census has been conducted by Australians for more than 100 years. “The Census is Australia’s largest statistical collection undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.”(Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016)

The 2016 Census has brought a lot of conjecture to the Australian public, as it has brought up a couple of burning topics such as cyber security, privacy and identity theft.

(source .id)

Cyber Security: Are we doing enough.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is about to conduct without a doubt the biggest primary data (Iacobucci, 2014, p199), collection in Australia. The collection of this big data about Australians comes with certain responsibilities. While there are many privacy safeguards in place there are still many cyber security experts concerned about not only how the data is being collected but also how it is being stored.

The Census collects data which plays a critical role in helping the government plan for our future.  Protecting this data is one of the ABS’s biggest challenges. Unfortunately today, personalized data is extremely valuable on the black market as discussed by Anthony Wong ACS President https://ia.acs.org.au/news/securing-the-census-432148The.  The Census while not containing any significantly sensitive information may still become a target for hackers. If identification data is integrated into other aggregated data sets then the data becomes a lot more useful, not only for the government but also for hackers or any other organizations who may wish to misuse the data.

Privacy Debate:

Privacy is a huge factor when gathering mass data. The 2016 Census has generated much debate on privacy. One of the main points of discussion was the extension of the retention of peoples names and addresses.

While the census has always asked for peoples names and addresses, the change from retaining the details from 18 months to 4 years raised some eye brows. The extension of data retention without any real explanation as to why, caused most of the up roar. This lack of education or explanation has fuelled speculation, concern and intrigue as to what the ABS plan to do with the data for 4 years.

(Source: istock)

The Census provides the ABS with some significant quantitative data which as discussed earlier helps and influences key government officials make educated decisions.

One current train of though is that due to the concern and general negative feeling towards the Census,  the data may not be accurate? Will the data be reliable? Will the data be valid? Will the data be a true representation of the Australian people? All of these questions are relevant to the quality of any type of research. As discussed by Alice Almeida  “As a researcher, the results of this Census should be of great concern. Surveying an angry audience has many risks involved” (Almeida, A 2016).

On the other hand it has been proven that if you are to complete a cognitive survey which is linked to your real name, then there is a much greater chance of the survey results being more accurate. It is not that the previous Census surveys have not asked for your name, the argument is more that they never used to care to much if it was left blank. The 2016 Census has it listed as mandatory.

Identity Theft: Are we more exposed?

As reported by the ABS between 2014 and 2015 “an estimated 126,300 persons in Australia were victims of identity theft (or 0.7% of the population aged 15 and over).” ( Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016)

(Source: noidentitytheft.com)

This ever growing number is fuelling the doubt in the Australian peoples mind. The data that is collected by the ABS is protected by the acts in which it operates under. As discussed by Liz Allen http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/08/census-2016-should-you-be-concerned-about-your-privacy/.

By completeing the Census we are no more exposed than we are already by using the huge plethora of social media outlets, loayalty programs or applying for a bank loan for that matter.

Should you provide your information?

The ABS do not want to know what you did on the weekend or what you ordered at your favourite restaurant last night. What they do want to know is who you are, where you live, how many dependants you have and how you get to work each day.  While this big data era has hit us hard and fast it is important to make sure that we all as Australians, make educated decision about what information we give, and to whom we give it. We need to trust that the government will continue to introduce acts and safeguards to protect the vulnerable. In order to make good decisions Australia needs to have the best information at hand to allocate the necessary resources and funding required to make Australia a better place to live.

Reference List

Allen, L 2016, Census 2016: Should You Be Concerned About Your Privacy?, Retrieved 13 August 2016, http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/08/census-2016-should-you-be-concerned-about-your-privacy/.

Almeida, A 2016, The Australian Census: will it crash the internet and can we trust the data?, Retrieved 12 August 2016, https://mumbrella.com.au/the-australian-census-will-it-crash-the-internet-and-can-we-trust-the-data-386771

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, What is the Census, Retrieved August 13 2016,  http://help.census.abs.gov.au/about/what#backtotop

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, 4528.0 – Personal Fraud, 2014-15, Retrieved 12 August 2016, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats%5Cabs@.nsf/0/1FF970676E24FDFECA2574740015CA71?Opendocument

Wong, A 2016, Securing the Census, Retrieved 13 August 2016, https://ia.acs.org.au/news/securing-the-census-432148The.

Iacobucci, D 2014, Marketing Management (MM4): Student Edition, South-Western: Cengage Learning, Mason

Anthony Reinke Student ID: 216212775

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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