How to keep your name off the Census without getting fined

Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s Census night. This year’s Census will be the first one to retain name and address information from respondents. If you’re still against filling out the lengthy and probing survey due to privacy concerns, you may be able to get away with leaving key information out without being slapped a hefty fine. Here’s how.

Census 2016 has been marred with controversy since it was revealed that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will be retaining the name and address of participants for up to four years. Privacy experts and critics have lambasted the move, forcing the Prime Minister to come out to reassure the public that personally identifiable data will be kept safe.

But the question is: How much do you trust the Government? For some, not much at all. Based on events in recent history, you don’t have to be wearing tinfoil hats to mistrust the Government and there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable attaching their names to their Census responses. The ABS has also had a number of data breaches in the past.

Given the Census is compulsory for anybody that is in Australia on August 9, if you don’t complete the survey, or if you provide false information, you could be fined.

But according 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.”

Yes, I know this was only the Western Australia Census director saying this, but why would the situation be any different in other states?

You might not be able to get away with this on the online version of Census (assuming you can’t progress on the digital form unless you fill in your name) but there’s still time to get your hands on the paper version.

You can either:

  • 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 tonight; 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.

He told News.com.au:

“No one has ever been fined for being late with their Census form, the fines are only if you eyes-open refuse to a Census collector.”

Overall, completing the Census is a good thing considering the information that is collected will be used to provide the Government guidance for future policies and funding decisions. Just don’t put your name on it.

More On Census 2016:

* This post first appeared on Lifehacker.

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