(Note: this is not “legal advice” and the author takes no responsibility for your Census form or non/participation.)
Someone just asked me what to put in the name section on the Census form. First off, let me just point out that there is no rush to fill out the form, as it can be done as late as September 23rd. So please don’t do the online version if you care about privacy and not building an Orwellian police state here in Oz. Don’t panic, you can:
A) Call up the Census hotline to request a paper form, or
B) Call up the Census hotline to find out where your nearest dedicated form pick-up location
If you’re worried you won’t get a Census paper form in time and that you’ll cop a fine if you don’t do it all by tomorrow night; don’t panic. According to the ABS Census and Statistical Network Division general manager Chris Libreri, while it is preferred that the forms are all filled out by August 9, realistically, people have until September 23 to complete it.1
In answer to the question re: the name section of the form, this was my suggestion (though an abridgement may be necessary).
I am a living spirit within a man/woman, not a ‘person’ or legal fiction or government entity and reserve all rights including the right not to provide a legal name herein for reasons of right to privacy and personal protection. I am aware of no government statute that overrides contract law and, in the absence of an autographed binding contract to the contrary, hereby note the lack of evidence of any lawful obligation of a living woman/man to provide a name in this or any other related government document, and thus reserve all of my inalienable rights, waiving none ever. No contract, no consent.
You could just use the first sentence if you felt inclined I suppose! (This is not to be construed or taken as legal advice!)
[A]ccording to Western Australia Census director David Weymouth, if you complete the survey and don’t provide your name, you won’t be fined. ABC Drive Perth radio host Jane Marwick spoke to him late last week about this:
Marwic: “If everything is filled out correctly, except the name, will I be fined?”
Weymouth: “I think the bottom line answer to that is no.”
There you have it.
Of course, that’s for those of you who plan to be at home. (For the love of god, please do not be like a sheep to the slaughter and fill out the online version of the Census.) I suggest simply not being at home. In our case we aren’t even in the country. We are included in the Census by default due to the international information forms filled out hopping from one airport to another, but those forms can really only record the simple fact that we (or our legal fictions, rather) were not in the country on the day/s. Job done.
If you can’t get out of the country (perhaps even just into international waters), there are some suggestions below. My personal favourite is provided by a Facebook event page called Census (Camping Festival and Homeless Persons Support Night), which notes that Australian scholars and lawyers are encouraging civil disobedience this time around because of the recent spectacularly Orwellian measure taken by “our” wonderful government around the “mandatory” nature of Census participation and the added touch of “having” to provide your legal name (which is not you, but a legal fiction which only LOOKS like the nickname/s you are known as by your friends and family).
Avoid being resident in any household on the Census date, Tuesday 9 August 2016. The Census is based on the premises, not the person, and hence if you aren’t resident you shouldn’t be recorded. (It appears that ‘grey nomads’ have had success with this “gone fishin’” approach)
So, grab your camping gear, your portable BBQ, lots of drinking water and common sense.
Head to the hills. Or, as has been pointed out to me, you can find some nice camping grounds in the most unlikely places, like some lawns near Parliament that would be handy for ACT people; and I am sure State parliaments elsewhere would be OK too.
Camp together with your fellow Australians.
Organise sporting events. Music performances. Mass tree planting. Help-a-struggling farmer working bee. Cooking competitions. Fly-fishing. Whatever.
Alternatively, show some sympathy to the plight of homeless persons in your city. Grab a blanket, cook some dinner, take it into the street and share – share your dinner with kindly strangers you find and sleep rough for a night, to appreciate what they are going through.
Australian Lawyers And Scholars Are Encouraging Civil Disobedience In This Year’s Census
2016/03/ australian-lawyers-and-scho lars-are-encouraging-civil -disobedience-in-this-year s-census/
If you’re worried about privacy, you should worry about the 2016 census
news/2016-03-15/ berg-census-privacy-threat/ 7244744
The Census and Statistics Act 1905 says, in part (namely, Part IV):
18. Powers of entry
(1) The Statistician or an authorized officer may, at all reasonable times, enter any premises included in a prescribed class of premises for the purpose of:
(a) supplying persons with forms;
(b) collecting forms that have been supplied to persons; and
(c) making inquiries for the purposes of this Act.
In other words, find a nice location outside any prescribed class of premises and camp the weekend away!
Evidently the option of contacting the ABS to tell them you “will not be home” is there – that way you could notify them that their agents and their forms won’t be required as no one will be there to receive them. Sorry, Gov’, maybe next time ’round.
Where will I be? Travelling spontaneously and without a set plan.
Alternatively: Why won’t I be at home? None of your bee’s wax.
Speaking of lawyers, I’d like to suggest looking into the possibility of a class action against the relevant government agents for this insulting situation. I believe we should look into suing for all fines issued (to the tune of $180 per day!) to people who chose not to provide their names in the form as is their right.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon has even spoken up on the new level of invasiveness of the Census and states that he will be refusing to put his name on the form, adding:
So, it seems, rather than being a snapshot of the nation, this census will now morph into a mobile CCTV that follows every Australian.
And it has come to this because of a woeful consultation process, that not only lacked transparency, but some would say verged on the disingenuous.
I note Natasha Bita’s story this morning where through FOI it has been established the ABS was concerned about a public backlash, and is also looking at the commercial opportunities from selling this information to private companies.
It has also come about because the government has either been wilfully clueless or recklessly indifferent to the risk this census poses to our privacy.
I understand by refusing to provide my name I will be given a notice under the act to comply and the $180 a day fine starts from then. I will contest any such notice, and by doing so it will in effect turn into a test case of the validity of this request.
In any event, in the meantime, I will be seeking amendments to Section 14 of the Act so that a person cannot be prosecuted if they fail to provide their name. In other words it will ensure such information is unambiguously non-compulsory.
I will write to both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, as well as my crossbench colleagues seeking their support for this amendment which of course will need to be made retrospective to Census night.
The government should be requesting our consent, rather than requiring our names through coercion. Australians expect the rule of law, not ruled by law.
This is a battle worth fighting. It’s not just just because privacy is an inherent human right to maintain the human condition with dignity and respect but also because it seems the ABS, with the support of the Australian Government is about to trash that human right. And the way they’ve done so has been completely undignified and disrespectful to all of us.
This is one of the few times I will urge people to back a politician. Please get behind Xenophon on this one. Please connect with one another and be ready to dig your heals in. Lawyers with souls, I hope you’re listening.
A further brief sentiment from another commentator on the subject of boycotting the Census outright:
The census, however, is one tool that everyone has that can be used to hit back at this asymmetry. Refusing to participate in the census is not merely legitimate because of the ABS’s refusal to address the very real privacy concerns created by its decision to retain identifying information, it’s legitimate as a means to signal to the government that its war on privacy is unacceptable and comes with a cost, that it already accumulates, or forces others to accumulate, too much information about us already and that it has not earned the trust to accumulate more. Indeed, it has eroded the bond of trust between governor and governed by failing to demonstrate the need for its mass surveillance schemes — which taxpayers and consumers have to pay for — and failing to address the privacy concerns created by the accumulation of personal data by powerful multinational corporations.
Because of the government’s actions, the census is no longer a beneficent policy tool, but caught up in a broader war on privacy. It’s a war that governments started. There should be no complaint when citizens fight back with whatever tools are at their disposal.
Herewith ends the “suggestions” portion of the article. Have fun, kids.
Finally, for those of you a little slow to catch on to the problems with this Census, I quote Pavel Kalinov’s August 5th Facebook post to conclude the article.
It seems I will need to do other people’s jobs for them again… The mass media in Australia is, I am afraid, totally useless.
So, what is the problem with next week’s Census and why is it so difficult for everyone to explain it properly? It is so simple…
All sorts of articles state that “this is the first time the Census will keep people’s names and addresses for longer” and this is somehow bad and it is the only reason privacy advocates are up in arms. Then the Census people come along and tell us that – hey, no worries, we are going to separate these from the other data and keep them in some other location so if a hacker somehow hacks us she’ll be right.
Now, for one thing, how do they figure that the hackers will be able to hack only one system and not the other? Secondly, what makes them think they will hack it after the data is separated and not before? The Census will be filled in online by most people. The server accepting these Census forms is, by default, web-visible (it would not be able to get data otherwise). This is the most lucrative target for hackers, ever. A sitting duck and obvious target where the hypothetical hackers can get everything before it is processed, de-identified and what not. And much easier to hack than the secondary systems which will (hopefully) not be web-connected. However, given that the ABS has admitted 14 hacks already (that they know of) of backend systems, and recent news that the Chinese government hacked the network of the Bureau of Meteorology, I wouldn’t be too hopeful…
Not to mention that you do not even need to hack the thing. A bit of DNS poisoning like the hack which mysteriously re-routed web traffic to Iceland, a bit of meddling with the SSL certificates to get authentication on both ends, like what the Iranians did to read dissidents’ gmail accounts, and the data will come straight to you. You can then forward it to the ABS at your convenience, intact or edited.
For another thing, the promise that “names and addresses will be deleted after four years” is a blatant lie. Why four years and not three, for example? Well, because that’s when the next Census is planned for… After four years, the names will just be transferred to the new forms, these will be linked to the old forms and the old forms will still be connectable. In other words, speaking in database terms, the data will just be “denormalised” (less redundancy) but not lost. In other words, they aim not for a “snapshot of Australia on Census night” as the brochure claims, but for a long-term surveillance tool.
This is entirely beside the point though, and where the media and everyone commenting fails. The above, dear everyone, is NOT the main problem with the Census. I will sum up the problem in two words: function creep.
Now, in some more detail…
Last time, we were told that names are optional and will be deleted after time. The ABS has already admitted that they lied and kept one million names, then connected them to other data sources for “longitudinal studies”. In conjunction with external “researchers”… This, in itself, should be enough to take the head of the ABS behind the shed and put him to the sword, or whatever it is they do in civilised countries in such cases. In Japan, he would have committed sepuku already.
So, as a PhD researcher, I need to get ethical clearance before I am allowed to interview people and ask them if they prefer red or green colour, but the ABS can just get the (extremely extensive and intrusive) information supplied to it in supposed confidence by a million people and give it out to “researchers” without so much as a by-your-leave? And the media registers not a squeak after the fact is revealed?
But wait, it gets even better…
They have actually said why they want to keep names and addresses. “The retained names and addresses will be used to generate anonymous linkage keys that will support the integration of census data with other datasets to provide new insights.” In other words, connect Census data to other datasets for “longitudinal studies”. Datasets like health records (mental health, specifically mentioned by the ABS…). Social security. Taxes. Education. Jobs. Childcare. Disability services. Homelessness services. Child protection. That’s what they have officially said already. Heaps of stuff they have not. What about car registrations? Company ownership? Immigration records (all dates when you have entered or left the country). Phone metadata. Internet metadata (and yes, you will be helpfully linking your data to your IP address by filling in the form online). And there is already a LONG list of organisations asking for free access to that.
So, let’s review some scenarios (things that already happened).
Person one is a builder. Travels from point A to point B regularly. Roadside cameras pick up his licence plate. Get datamined. Some algorithm marks him as dodgy (travels too often) – potential drug dealer. Gets stopped and “randomly searched”. Were the cameras put there for that purpose? No. Are they used for it now? Yes. Function creep.
Person two decides to be a whistleblower. Sends some documents about the NBN to a journalist. Article gets published. Somebody goes through the journalist’s metadata (phone and web), finds the whistleblower, his home gets raided. Was metadata supposed to be used this way? No. Is it used this way now? Yes. Function creep.
Person three takes his baby daughter to the doctor. Doctor suggests a prophylactic that Person three decides is not worth the risk (namely, a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease). Centrelink then accesses baby’s health records. Marks baby as not fully vaccinated. Person three loses Family Tax Benefit A supplement. ATO then punishes him with further taxes, as a person not receiving FTB. Now, the (misnamed) Childhood Immunisation Register (it should be called Vaccination Register – vaccination is not the same as immunisation) is expanded to become all-of-life, and you can bet that anyone and their dog will have access to it. Was there supposed to be medical privacy when the register was created? Yes. Was it to be used for anything not medical? No. Is it used to financially punish parents now for exercising their right of informed medical consent? Yes. Function creep.
To make it even more scary, there are politicians already who want to use the new Adult register to deprive people of their JOBS if they have refused a vaccine.
The above examples are things that already happened. The latter one with not only the approval but with the active participation of Australian media, which actually initiated the legislation. Yes, in Australia a private company can push for legislation which breaks basic human rights, and get it.
Now, let’s run some future scenarios.
A bright ASIO lad (and no, don’t tell me that the ABS can refuse data if asked nicely by the ASIO) decides to connect Census data to car registrations to roadside camers. To find out where young males of a certain persuasion drive their cars on a Saturday, for example. How long till another “random” police check blows this?
How long till the above politicans call for some other criteria by which “bad” people have to lose their jobs?
How long before our lovely friends across the Pond remind us of our Five Eyes intelligence alliance and demand some data? They already ask for your social media accounts before you are allowed on a flight to the US. Why not connect the dots to some other pieces of the puzzle, which we so helpfully collected and collated for them?
The head of the ABS “guarantees” that data will not be shared… Well no, sir. You cannot guarantee anything. Future legislation is out of your hands.
As for the researchers that the ABS wants to co-opt… Here’s what one of them says:
“If you were to ask people what medication they are taking, most probably wouldn’t be able to tell you or would find the topic too sensitive,” she says. “But linking the census data to pharmaceutical benefits records can get that data and get it linked to all sorts of other information without the need to go back to people over and over again.”
This explains it all… People find it sensitive and do not want to tell us what drugs they are on, but we’ll get the information anyway. For their own good.
And, let’s think for a minute. Just who is a “researcher” these days, especially in the field of health? Mostly corporate-funded researchers. These same large corporations that have (each and every one of them) been found guilty of fraud and outright criminal conduct? These same corporations that are building a global surveillance system to pick up dissenters from the “accepted truth” of their corporate-funded science? These same corporations that build “hit lists” of people who speak bad of their products, in order to destroy their reputations and careers?
You will now give them the data to enable them to do so?
And no, do not tell me it is all de-identified. If some American researchers can re-identify more than 90% of a sample without breaking a sweat, why wouldn’t a corporation with multi-billion dollar research and marketing budgets (which cover the creation of hit lists) be able to do it? You don’t even need to do it the hard way, like those researchers had to. You just start with your target, apply some filters to the sample data and you there you have it.
– 47 years old, date of birth such-and-such
– PhD education
– works as a web programmer
– lives in suburb A
– works in suburb B
– entered Australia first in 2000
– speaks Bulgarian as primary language
– has a wife and two kids, dates of birth such-and-such
– etc. etc.
Well, how many people in the country match that profile?
No, ABS, I do not trust you with this. (Quoted with permission.)
All clear now?
Let’s hope that the 2016 Census will be viewed as Australia’s biggest occurrence of mass civil disobedience to date!
- How To Keep Your Name Off The Census Without Getting Fined, http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2016/08/how-to-keep-your-name-off-the-census-without-getting-fined/