Australia’s 2016 Census FAIL

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.

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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:

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14 Replies to “Australia’s 2016 Census FAIL”

  1. I’m not sure how it functions but I haven’t trusted the government on almost everything for a while, because they just disinform us to calm us down. It seems to be safe when our data is with the government, it’s only census, but they can’t even keep it safe. What about more important data? We all know that they government control our metadata, including every word we googled, every status we posted on Facebook. In the context when there’s always a hidden war between countries, who knows where our data may go (

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dark fibre and the government have a staggering amount of characteristics in common. They both have an abundance of information about people, they can get this information whenever they want (surveillance of state) and they use this information for their benefit. However, sometimes it can backfire, using this case for example (
    Yes I am saying the government is evil and is watching all of us, and this similarity is quite indicative of how the internet began also. This article illustrates how we are being ‘spied on’ and how our information is being used by the Australian government (,5907), so if the census wasn’t bad enough we also have to deal with this. If the census website was hacked maliciously, what happens to every Australian’s personal information. Is it all buried under each other in the collation of information? The fact we don’t know and are being told that our data is safe doesn’t sound right. Oh well, I guess the hackers can have my Instagram account, only has 300 bot followers anyways.

    ~ krisesandchrosses ~

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The case of the Census Fail is a really good one because if the Government was hacked, (which I believe they were and are just covering up so they don’t look bad) it brings forth the question, were these hackers black or white hat? One of the major theories going around is that the reason for the hack was in opposition to the government storing our personal data because clearly they don’t know how to keep it secure. This hack although vandal like in nature could be seen as a white hack because it is a minor destruction that attempts to prevent larger consequences. A hack to prevent worse hacks. By that definition it makes them white hat hackers- they were just not asked to do it haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hands down one of the best posts I’ve ever read. What a great way to tackle this weeks topic, your memes are absolutely hilarious for one and the theories you were bringing up were very intriguing and engaging. This site gives a greater inside into the ‘tech failure’ if you want to check that out
    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another theory that could possibly be posed is that the Australian population unintentionally performed a DDoS attack when trying to log onto the ABS site all at once. Though the census has been online since 2006, this is the first time anything like this has occurred. So, one could argue that the attacks were intentional. The government claim that no information was stolen, so this ‘CyberWar’ on the ABS serve the sole purpose of disrupting government procedure.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can do you one better:

    The census had a number of problems, not least that they let fear-mongering dictate that if you didn’t do it on the advertised night you would quite probably be fined. No sympathy for for them when they don’t make it abundantly clear that it wasn’t the case. Found a bunch of articles reprimanding the ABS, this is probably the best:

    ‘Preparation and planning will always be the best way to mitigate these attacks’, something they clearly faltered with.


  7. While the census faced considerable scrutiny for security and privacy issues, 90 per cent of Australian’s completed the form, 65 per cent was online. However the real issue is the security of the statistical linkage keys that connect the census data to other governmental services – and they are in no way secure. Here’s an article on it further:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your example of the Census worked perfectly in this weeks topic of privacy and data retention. This is a interesting story of the South Australian senator refusing to put his name on the census.
    “I have decided this morning that I will not be providing my name for this year’s census, due to be completed tomorrow night,” Senator Xenophon told reporters in Canberra.

    “I do so in full knowledge that I may face prosecution under the Census Statistics Act of 1905, and that currently involves a fine of $180 per day that is cumulative for every day of non-compliance.


  9. Very good question Mia, I personally believe that it was a server down due to the force of the dark fiber and hacker who tried to play joke with the government. Here what I think, it is scary that government keeping all the data of everyone in Australia in their unreliable server that some no name hacker could enter and give all the information.


  10. Hey Mia,
    Awesome content!!! Great take on Australia has fallen victim to a cyber security attack. I personally believe that the government were downplaying the matter in censoring the truth of that the website was indeed hacked. Its interesting that during a time of fear and terror around the world our census was hacked.


  11. Oh the 2016 Census… easily one of the most embarrassing moments in the ABS’s history. Not only was it frustrating and worrying for those who had input personal information, but it spawned a ton of humorous reactions on Twitter (mine included:
    The amazing thing is that they tried to say they got hacked, when it is clearly a mistake on their behalf. Shame on you Australian government.


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