news The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has announced that it will retain personal data collected in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.
Notably, the move goes against the recommendation of a privacy impact assessment report the bureau commissioned 10 years ago.
Specifically, the ABS said it will keep the names and addresses to provide a “richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia” through a combination of census data and other data.
The ABS stressed that existing practices and obligations will ensure that users of census data will not be able to identify any individual or household.
However, in 2005, the ABS commissioned a privacy impact assessment report headed by Nigel Waters – deputy Australian Federal Privacy Commissioner from 1989-97. Waters concluded in the report that retaining personal data posed privacy risks for Australians.
The ABS has now undertaken a more recent privacy assessment which found that retaining names and addresses has “very low” risks to privacy, confidentiality and security.
The ABS is able to safely manage personal data through robust data management and information security practices, the assessment concluded.
It states: “Under this proposal, names and addresses would be stored separately from other household and person data collected in the Census. Names and addresses would also be stored separately from each other. Addresses and anonymised versions of names would only be used for projects approved by a senior-level committee, and would be subject to strict information security provisions. ”
According to the ABS, the assessment process included consultation with the Australian Privacy Commissioner, as well as state and territory privacy commissioners.
“This decision is consistent with the prescribed functions of the ABS, set out in legislation, and complies with other necessary legislative and privacy requirements,” the bureau said.