CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
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. The ABS protects all Census information, meets the public's expectations, and complies with all the 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 is used by the ABS. These practices include legally binding all officers of the ABS to secrecy under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, including temporary staff recruited for collection and processing of the Census.
The ABS has not retained name information after completion of Census processing. 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.
The ABS uses the strongest encryption technology that current internet browsers will support for the online Census to ensure information is delivered securely. All possible measures to protect the integrity of the online site are taken. Comprehensive security arrangements, as used within the wider ABS, are used for online and paper Census forms and for ABS computer systems.
For the 2016 Census, householders will be able to complete the form online or mail their form back to the ABS. Any individual member of a household (including a visitor) can request their own secure access codes to the online form, or a separate paper form and privacy envelope.
The ABS only uses information collected in the Census for the purposes of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
In Australian Censuses prior to 2001, forms and other name-identified records were destroyed once the statistical data required for the purposes of the Census had been extracted. Since the 2001 Census all people have been given the option of having their name-identified responses retained for 99 years (Time Capsule). After 99 years, the name-identified data will be made public for future generations. This option is now a permanent feature of the Census.
In order to ensure that the current high levels of public confidence and cooperation in the Census are maintained, and to respect the wishes of those who do not want their information retained for future release, information will only be kept for those persons who explicitly give their consent. For privacy reasons the name-identified information will not be available for any purpose, including by a court or tribunal, within a 99 year closed access period.
After this information has been transferred to the National Archives of Australia and statistical processing is completed, the ABS will destroy all paper and online Census forms including the computer images of those forms. As in the past, the paper forms will be pulped for recycling.
This page last updated 5 November 2012