Earlier this year we reported that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had some interesting plans for the data it will collect in this year’s census — that is, the bureau is going to store people’s names and addresses, despite advice warning against doing so a decade ago. Now the Australian Privacy Foundation has written to the ABS saying that it was not consulted over the decision, despite being consulted when similar moves were considered in 2006.

Despite APF’s prior involvement with ABS, we were not aware of the consultation process the report refers to, and were not notified of the process, Media Release or Report,” it says.

The letter to Australian Statistician David Kalisch also says that the APF is not aware of any NGOs, human rights or civil society organisations who were consulted or notified about the process. The letter calls the consultation process flawed and asks that the ABS release details about which stakeholders were notified of the privacy impact assessment process, and why it was conducted in-house instead of by an independent organisation.

Concerns are also heightened because Australians remain exposed, without effective protection if anything goes wrong: there are still no laws in place for mandatory data breach notification, no requirement for subject-accessible auditing or mandatory tracing of downstream re-use or abuse of re-identified data, nor any enforceable legal right against serious invasions of privacy; and the regulator, the Privacy Commissioner, is now short-term, part-time, over-loaded and under sustained institutional attack.”

The letter was sent by the APF in February. We contacted them to ask if they had heard back from the ABS, but did not receive a response by deadline.

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Peter Fray

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