The folks at StatsNZ are working hard on next year's census. This will be the first time an online option will be prioritised. Understanding people may feel the need to know more about security and privacy aspects, the team wants to run a Q&A with the Geekzone community.
@StatsNZ will be available for a couple of days - 12th and 13th December - to answer your questions. Post in this topic for this to keep rolling.
As a background, Stats NZ provided me with this intro.
Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson, explains more about what we’ve done to prepare and our commitment to looking after your census information once you submit it.
The next census will be different.
While this isn’t the first time that we have offered an online option for people to complete the census, it is the first time that we will be prioritising online participation – and we’ve changed the entire model of the census in support.
Next year, instead of people delivering paper forms to every household and then coming back after census day to collect them, Stats NZ will be sending or delivering access codes for every household to go online – and only following up with the households that haven’t taken part after census day.
Requiring everyone to take part in the census comes with the responsibility of doing everything we can to look after the data you submit to us, so the move to digital first meant that we needed to build a system that is reliable, and as easy as possible for everyone to use next year.
We’ve had a few challenges along the way – particularly designing a solution that strikes a balance between making the system as secure as we possibly can, while still making it easy and accessible for everyone in New Zealand to use at census time, but we’re confident that we’ve designed and tested a system that will work.
We’ve built from scratch, working with external partners, and we’ll be actively monitoring the system throughout the time that people are completing their census forms so that we can react quickly if anything doesn’t go to plan. We’ve also learnt a lot from our colleagues in Australia, who ran their census last year.
A huge focus has been building a system that can handle the scale and resiliency we need – we’re aiming for more than double the number of people to complete online than in 2013, and this means designing a system that can cope with a lot of people online at once, and a lot of attention.
We also know that your information is likely to go offshore when it is on its way to us. This is because the internet looks for the fastest route for the data to travel to our systems and in most cases, this happens to be via Australia.
But, while it is on its way, all the information you submit will be encrypted from your browser to our system, and can only be unlocked once it is received by Stats NZ systems. Once we have received it, both the data and the ‘pipe’ it travels through to our servers (where it is stored) are also encrypted. We’ve also put a global web security system in place to do everything we can to protect our systems from malicious attacks.
We’ve completed testing at every stage of the system build – this includes penetration testing conducted by external security partners. We’ve also run three public tests, involving thousands of households since 2016, to test how our new processes works – from sending out the letters and seeing how people complete the online forms, through to assessing how the data flows through the system to our servers.
We’ve done all of this work because we know how valuable the information we ask everyone to submit is.
The census is about everyone in New Zealand – it involves asking you to tell us information about yourself so that we can build a picture of how many people and dwellings there are in New Zealand, and how our society is changing over time.
Making sure that we make it as easy as possible for you to take part, and making sure we are ready to look after the information you share with us, is our top priority for the 2018 Census.
Keen to find out more about the census? https://www.census.govt.nz/your-information/