Statement of Intent – ABS to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment on retention of names and addresses from responses to the 2016 Census

The ABS has a long and proud history of Census taking in Australia, and the 2016 Census will be the seventeenth national Census of Population and Housing. The Census is the largest collection the ABS conducts, and one of the most important. The protection of the privacy and confidentiality of every person and household in Australia is of the highest priority. Maintaining the trust that the community has in the ABS is also paramount.1

The 2016 Census will introduce significant changes to the way the Census is conducted, with a move to a digital-first approach. Australia's first predominantly digital Census will be faster, more efficient and easier for the public.

The 2016 Census will also provide an opportunity to improve and expand the information available to Australians through continuing the use of statistical data integration techniques to bring together 2016 Census data with previous Censuses (2006 and 2011) and other high value research datasets. Together these initiatives will continue to provide new insights and ensure the Census delivers maximum benefit to governments and the community. For information on current Census data integration initiatives please see the Census Data Enhancement project update .

Building on the successes of the 2006 and 2011 Censuses, the ABS intends to explore the retention of names and addresses from the 2016 Census to provide a benefit to the ABS and wider community by:

    enabling higher quality and more efficient linkage of high value survey and administrative datasets with the Census, particularly for small or highly mobile population sub groups of policy interest;

    supporting a range of organisational efficiencies, such as the development of an address register, improving sampling, imputation and provider management; and

    supporting more flexible geospatial outputs.

To give full effect to these changes, the ABS would need to cease the historical practice of the destruction of name and address information collected in the Census. The ABS proposes to instead apply well established separation principles to protect privacy by storing both name and address separately and securely from other household and personal data collected in the Census. This is an internationally recognised approach to protecting privacy and ensuring personal information is kept secure. Under this proposed approach, names will never be brought together with other Census data. Only anonymised versions of name will be used for approved statistical data integration projects. Addresses will only be used for approved data integration, operational and geospatial purposes.

The ABS intends to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment on the retention of names and addresses from responses to the 2016 Census. The Privacy Impact Assessment will ensure the right privacy design can be put in place and inform the processes, risks and risk mitigation strategies that would be required to enable the secure retention of name and address information from the 2016 Census.

At the completion of the Privacy Impact Assessment process, and after considering all feedback received, a decision will be made on whether to progress with the retention of name and address from 2016 Census responses. The outcome of this decision will be published on the ABS website by the end of 2015.

As our track record demonstrates, the ABS takes its role in protecting the privacy and confidentiality of all respondents very seriously. The Census and Statistics Act 1905 commits the ABS to protect the confidentiality of persons, households and organisations. The Privacy Act 1988 commits the ABS to protect privacy. The ABS recognises that protecting the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of information supplied by them are paramount to the successful conduct of a Census. For more information on how we approach privacy and confidentiality in the Census please see the Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content document for more details.

The ABS invites feedback on the retention of name and address from the 2016 Census. Any feedback should be provided in writing by close of business Wednesday, 2 December 2015 to the following address:

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

David W. Kalisch
Australian Statistician

11 November 2015

1 Trust in the ABS remains high, with a recent independent survey showing that 81 per cent of the general public and 100 per cent of informed users trust Australia’s official statistical organisation.