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From Census to Surveillance

Forty years after the first attempts to de-anonymise the Australian census, in 2016 the government finally succeeded. This is the story of the forty year struggle against efforts to turn the Australian census from a population snapshot into cradle-to-grave surveillance and the public response.


Q4 If you did fill out the 2016 Census, did you include your real name and address?

This question was required and had 3 answer options from which respondents could choose only one: Yes, No and other.


A substantial majority (74%) of respondents either did not fill out the census form at all or responded in ways intended to frustrate efforts to share their information in ways that could identify them as individuals, match their census data to other data or track their census data from one census to the next. The commonly found terms below are not mutually exclusive of one another.

This high number of people who have chosen not to complete the census or refused specific questions/ removed identifying information is directly relevant to the Inquiry Terms of Reference seeking feedback on impacts on data quality for the 2016 census.

blank false undisclosed persona name pencil postcode address necessary initials track variation

Click on the commonly used terms to explore responses or click here to display all responses alphabetically

54 comments provided under 'other/please specify'

address only.

Blank address- name The Householder

census not done. Not going to be done either

completed address- left names blank

created a new persona for street address

Current address was already on the form- provided suburb and postcode for other addresses.

False name

False name- address- and some personal details. Only what I consider relevant to stastical analysis was completed approximately accurately.

false name- correct address

Filled in address but gave name as UNDISCLOSED

First name only. Make the computer work that little bit harder.

Gave correct address- no name

Gave first name- not last

I cut out NAD and identifying bar codres before returning the form

I did- but am unhappy about having to do so under threat of a fine

I didn't put my real name

I do not intend to use my name or address

I included a false name for privacy and security reasons.

I included it in the palest of blue coloured pencil- so it could not be scanned but required dedicated effort AND inckuded cover letter saying it was complted under duress asnd in great anger at them compromising such an important process.

I intend to leave name and address blank

I intend to leave name- all addresses (both current and past)- and age blank- to frustrate creation of an SLK or any possible link to past census data

I left name blank but the address was already printed on the form

I made a statement of objection but I gave Postcode.

I made my address suburb only with previous addresses

I provided a false name but address and other details were true

I put in my postcode and suburb only.

I put not necessary for purpose of Census data

I redacted identifying information and competed the data section truthfully

I used a false name but real address. [This should be a category]

i will be using a false name

I will do it but am unhappy about it and have no wish to take it seriously again. I think the info will be used for any purpose the govt wants and fear lack of security.

I will fill in the Census form when asked to in writing by the Chief Statistician. When I fill it in- I will omit my name and address details.

I will leave blank space for my name on the paper form.

I will not fill in the form if this is required.

I would never provide my name. The ABS is only authorised to hold statistical dat!

I'll use false name if/when I do it

If I complete the paper form- I will be leaving off my name and address. Still debating whether to do this or boycott.

if instructed by chief ABS to complete form- I will not include my name and add

Just address as it was printed on the form won't get names though as I feel names make the census a data trawling tool.

Misrepresentation of the depth of data linkage-cross referencing and retention

No name. Correct address

Not in Aus

Put initials

Real address but a blank name

Real address- as it was printed on the paper- fake names.

Removed all tracking items on form

silent voter ...omitted name

Tossed up + in the end did a variation

Used a very runny ink from a fountain pen which might 'accidently' smear

used married name- which I don't use in real life

Yes I did- but reluctantly!!

yes- but i didn't really want to

Names and DOB blank

Stated suburb-postcode-age and gender.

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