DownUnderAllOver: Developments around the country

Melissa E. De Zwart, Caitlin A. McInnes, Sean Costello, Bruce Baer Arnold, Kellie E. McDonald, Ned Cutcher, Rebecca Naylor, Christopher Frawley, Kate Galloway, Sue Tilley, Robert Corr, Steven Castan, Stuart Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


So read the message on the Australian Census website, after hours of users attempting to submit their 2016 Census returns being frustrated by error messages. Behind this fairly simple and apparently reassuring message that service would be reinstated shortly, lay a complicated trail of user confusion, fear of privacy invasions, fines and government cutbacks. The 2016 Census was not well publicised until a few weeks before the Census was scheduled. Although it had been announced in late 2015 that the Census would be largely completed online (with paper formats for remote users and others who opted in to that method) the issue of data retention had not been an issue, until it came to public attention that names would be retained for a period of four years. Fears
related to privacy invasions led a group of Senators, including Nick Xenophon and Scott Ludlam, to declare that they would not be placing their names on the Census. The next wave of public concern then focussed on the possibility that people not including their name or other details would be fined for incorrect or incomplete Census returns. Added to this were the concerns about vague plans for future data linkage projects and the de-identification of data through Statistical Linkage Keys. These plans were clear to demographers and statisticians, but opaque to the general public.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalAlternative Law Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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