The Census collects information relating to each person and household in the country but it is not concerned with information about individuals as such. The Census is taken to provide information about the community as a whole and about groups within the community. The public expects that the information they provide will be kept confidential and this protection is given by provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The ABS also has an obligation to comply with the Information Privacy Principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988.
To ensure that confidentiality and privacy provisions are observed, a comprehensive set of practices are used by the ABS. In the 2011 Census they will include the following:
(a) Temporary staff recruited for collection and processing of the Census, as well as permanent staff having access to completed Census forms, are officers of the ABS. All ABS officers are legally bound to secrecy under the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Officers sign an undertaking of fidelity and secrecy to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities about Census data. Section 19 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 forbids past or present ABS officers from divulging information collected under this Act, either directly or indirectly, under penalty of up to 120 penalty units (currently $13,200) or imprisonment for 2 years or both.
(b) As in 2006, all householders will have the option to complete an Internet version of the Census form, called the eCensus. The ABS will use the strongest encryption technology that current Internet browsers will support to ensure that Census information is delivered securely. All possible measures to protect the integrity of the eCensus site will be taken. Each householder who submits an eCensus form will be issued with a receipt number.
(c) In large urban areas, procedures will be established to avoid Census Collectors working in the districts in which they live, to minimise the possibility of collecting information from people they know personally.
(d) Householders will be advised that anyone who does not want their completed form to be seen by the Census Collector will be able to complete the eCensus form, or obtain from the Census Collector an envelope in which to seal the form. In addition, any individual member of a household (including a visitor) can request their own access codes to the eCensus form, or a separate form and envelope in which to record their own details. Census Collectors will be required to pass all envelopes unopened to their Area Supervisor who will then conduct quality assurance. People not in private dwellings generally receive separate forms and envelopes. People who are not satisfied with these arrangements will be able to send a completed form to the ABS by mail.
(e) Census Collectors will be instructed to pick up Census forms in person from householders and not to suggest arrangements whereby completed forms are left outside the house at some prearranged location.
(f) Completed Census forms will be transferred from the field to the Census processing centre under secure arrangements. eCensus forms will be transferred securely. Full-time security personnel will be employed to prevent any unauthorised access to the processing centre.
(g) Comprehensive security arrangements as used in the 2006 Census, will be implemented on the ABS computer system, including the use of regularly changed passwords, access control and audit trails.
(h) The ABS will not retain name and address once Census processing is completed. The only exception is if a person explicitly agrees by answering the relevant question on the Census form to have their name-identified responses retained by the National Archives of Australia for release in 99 years time.
(i) In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, no results will be released in a way which would enable particular individuals or households to be identified. In past Censuses, the ABS has made slight random adjustments to the tabulated data and this will continue for the 2011 Census.