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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.


Q9 Do you feel that the government did enough to raise awareness of and publicise the changes to privacy with the 2016 Census (during 2015 the consultation period)?

Nearly every respondent to the survey (95%) believes that the government did not do enough to raise awareness of the changes to the 2016 census during the consultation period. This meant that many people only found out there were potential issues with privacy and the 2016 census in the lead up to the census collection period. This caused significant public backlash that should have been dealt with appropriately in order to guarantee the quality of the 2016 census data.

The ABS ignored every suggestion proposed by the citizenry through our political representatives, choosing to claim publicly that there were no significant changes to the 2016 census and that there have been no significant technical, political or practical issues likely to affect data quality and return rates.

Rather than make any attempt to deal with the emerging problems, the ABS repeatedly stated that it was happy with the response rate of the 2016 census.

The comments below provide to the Inquiry the opinion of the concerned public with regard to the changes that have been put in place, their actual opinions of the decision making process as opposed what the ABS would like people to believe is the public mood.

29 comments provided under 'other'

Absolutely not! The additional data retention/linking has ZERO social licence

Doesn't matter. The changes are unacceptable.

Don't know had my head in sand until 2016 election day- for last 25 years.

Got had no intention ... lacks transparency emphasis on secrecy

government or junta ?

Heavy handed Orwellian Animal Farm quality about whole tracking issue

Hell no! This is a matter of supreme importance. Even Senators didn't disclose names- which makes you wonder if the think the rest of us a complete idiots.

It is increasingly obvious that public consultation was avoided due to an excpted backlash. This is precisely why the government and ABS have lost public trust and raised suspicions about the real function of this census.

My view is that the ABS did what was required under existing privacy frameworks and government practices. If there is a desire for there to be a different process- that is a different issue.

No - and the way the changes appear to have been deliberately rushed through without publicity or public discussion serves only to arouse suspicion even in those who aren't naturally suspicious.

NO and NO again its shocking the way the government (LAB & LIB) have destroyed or rights to privacy over the last few years. I rallied against the Australia Card in the 80's and we are now seeing the last steps to implementing it by stealth.

No- and I don't think the changes should have happened in the first place.

NO- and it appears to have been a deliberate effort to minimise public awareness to avoid unwanted consultation and negative feedback.

No- not at all- although I blame Kalisch (and his motives) at ABS more than the pollies

Not at all. Keeping information that links my name and address to my spiritual preference is a digrace. To know that ABS is IT technically incompentant is every worse. Hackers will soon know the name and address of every Catholic or Jew or whatever in Australia. What fool made this decision I ask....

Not of any concern to me.

Only found out through the good folks on Twitter

Publicising (not enough spin through advertising) is not the issue. Media/government are definitely putting that filter over people's eyes though. Australians are not morons. Many are refusing- not because we didn't receive enough advertising to understand but because do understanding - we're sick of government encroaching on our lives unnecessarily. People are realising government actively attempted to bypass privacy laws through deception with this census. Attempted to make us believe laws say something they do not. i.e. Census is compulsory. government want every person identified and given an SLK. so rather than do that openly (which would require legislation etc.) lets simply imply identifying yourself by providing your name is compulsory too - by attaching what isn't compulsory to what is - whilst removing the option to not provide your name.

shouldn't have ever happened

The changes would have been rejected by the public if they were publicised during the consultation period.

The government had no intention of telling us about the implications of this census.

They actively tried to hide their changes.

They deliberately hid these changes - total lack of trust now for any future census.

They publicised the changes but disagreed it meant anything.

They should have retained it as it was

They took deliberate measures to obscure and delay publication of the changes

They were silent and secretive about the changes- hoping the public would willingly agree with having a dossier created about every person in the country

thought they should have just shut up and said nothing.

I was aware of the changes so yes. But they had not convinced me of the need to do so.

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