Policy Forum Pod

#Censusfail - what went wrong, why, and what to do about it

Episode Summary

Three experts discuss the concerns around the Australian Census, how the data is used by researchers, and why the census website went offline on its big night. At 7.30pm, on the night of 9 August, as the government was urging people to login and complete the census online, the website specifically designed to collect data directly from Australia’s 24 million strong population, was taken offline following a series of what is being called denial of service incidents. These incidents, caused by parties as yet unknown, involved the routing of huge volumes of data through servers in the US to essentially crash the website. The incident has become a source of embarrassment for the agency responsible for delivering the census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and by extension the Australian Government. It has generated widespread concern, not to mention inconvenience, for pretty much the entire Australian population, and raises serious questions about trust, privacy and the cyber security of government agencies. But even before the night of 9 August this year’s census was in trouble. Changes to the information collected, as well as the length of time the information would be retained and how the information would be used, had led to significant concerns. On Twitter, users highlighted and discussed these under the hashtag #censusfail. Discussing what went wrong, why, and what comes next are: Dr Liz Allen - a demographer at The Australian National University. Dr Cassandra Cross - Senior Lecturer at the School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology Michelle Price - cybersecurity advisor at the ANU National Security College. Read Michelle Price's piece on this issue at http://www.policyforum.net/census2016s-slim-silver-lining/

Episode Notes

Three experts discuss the concerns around the Australian Census, how the data is used by researchers, and why the census website went offline on its big night. At 7.30pm, on the night of 9 August, as the government was urging people to login and complete the census online, the website specifically designed to collect data directly from Australia’s 24 million strong population, was taken offline following a series of what is being called denial of service incidents. These incidents, caused by parties as yet unknown, involved the routing of huge volumes of data through servers in the US to essentially crash the website. The incident has become a source of embarrassment for the agency responsible for delivering the census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and by extension the Australian Government. It has generated widespread concern, not to mention inconvenience, for pretty much the entire Australian population, and raises serious questions about trust, privacy and the cyber security of government agencies. But even before the night of 9 August this year’s census was in trouble. Changes to the information collected, as well as the length of time the information would be retained and how the information would be used, had led to significant concerns. On Twitter, users highlighted and discussed these under the hashtag #censusfail. Discussing what went wrong, why, and what comes next are: Dr Liz Allen - a demographer at The Australian National University. Dr Cassandra Cross - Senior Lecturer at the School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology Michelle Price - cybersecurity advisor at the ANU National Security College. Read Michelle Price's piece on this issue at http://www.policyforum.net/census2016s-slim-silver-lining/