Dr Mann said that in an era of big data, algorithmic profiling and data matching, advocating for the collection of ‘anonymous’ census data was not a panacea for privacy concerns.
“We need to consider this in the context of the volume and nature of information that is already routinely collected by state and non-state agencies with or without individual knowledge or consent,” Dr Mann said.
“Individuals can be personally identified from a small number of data points, irrespective of whether they provide their names. There are broader issues to be debated about the collection, storage, sharing and use of personal information.”
It was naïve to think census data would not be compromised in some way in the future, said QUT School of Justice senior lecturer Dr Cassandra Cross, an expert in identity theft and fraud.
“It is wrong of government to offer an iron-clad promise that it will be kept safe,” Dr Cross said.
“Many governments here and overseas have experienced data breaches and the ABS is not immune to any type of compromise, external or internal.
“Census data is a collection of highly personal and sensitive facts which is an attractive target for potential offenders.
“There has been no consideration of what would happen were a data breach to occur and the potential impact that could have.
“Identity theft is one of the most significant problems today, and can have devastating impacts. To dismiss privacy and security concerns with inaccurate comparisons to the use of other social media platforms ignores the inherent differences in these – that of voluntary participation.
“The best way to prevent a data breach is to neither enable its retention nor its linking to other data sets in the first place,” Dr Cross said.
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