The 2016 Census of Population and Housing (or otherwise simply known as the ‘Census’) is Australia’s largest collection of statistics. Why do we do a national census? Well, I’ll let ‘the ABS explain this one:
The information you provide in the Census helps estimate Australia’s population, which is used to distribute government funds and plan services for your community – housing, transport, education, industry, hospitals and the environment. Census data is also used by individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors to make informed decisions on policy and planning issues that impact the lives of all Australians”.
So there you go. It’s basically a collection of ALL of our personal data in regards to family, relationships, place of living and what not. You know, information that you wouldn’t really want in the hands of anyone but yourself and people close to your circle.
Tuesday 9th of August was our most recent census. And man, was it a disaster or what. #censusfail (look it up). The census servers completely failed and resulted in a staggering amount of Australians unable to complete their census survey online. Fortunately the census date was extended, allowing citizens to update their information well after the initial census disaster without any fines.
So, just why did the site crash? Was our personal data at risk of indecent exposure? Was it because of the mass amount of people on the site at once? Were hackers out to get us and steal our information? Was it a vicious cyber crime?
There are many different theories, although through my own brief research, there isn’t an exact answer. According to the ABC News, in the lead-up to census night, the ABS spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on load testing and said its servers could handle 1 million forms per hour. Bill Shorten insisted that the crash was not the work of hackers (you can read more about this notion here, although statistician David Kalisch insists that the site was hacked four times to deliberately sabotage the site (read more about this opinion here).
Australian’s have been reassured that their data is safe through ‘extra steps’ taken over the night of the census. What are these extra steps though? With all the pre testing of the site and its ability to withstand traffic, something clearly went wrong.
What do you think? Do you believe that it was a server fail or the work of dark fibers and hackers? Leave your say in the comments below. I’m still sitting on the fence with this one.
Here are some more interesting articles I would suggest reading in regards to this topic:
- Census 2016: ABS admits 90 percent submission rate before deadline
- Census 2016: ABS website crashes in #censusfail