Monday, September 15, 2008

Census Sensitivity

I just listened to a story on CBC Radio about some Canadians who refused to fill out the 2006 Census, and are now facing the consequences of going against the Statistics Act.

Every person who, without lawful excuse,
(a) refuses or neglects to answer, or wilfully answers falsely, any question requisite for obtaining any information sought in respect of the objects of this Act or pertinent thereto that has been asked of him by any person employed or deemed to be employed under this Act, or

(b) refuses or neglects to furnish any information or to fill in to the best of his knowledge and belief any schedule or form that the person has been required to fill in, and to return the same when and as required of him pursuant to this Act, or knowingly gives false or misleading information or practises any other deception thereunder

is, for every refusal or neglect, or false answer or deception, guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both. 1970-71-72, c. 15, s. 29.

For one of the accused interviewed by the CBC, the concerns were privacy (i.e. why are you asking me, what will you do with it, etc). The Liberty Alliance's Identity Governance Framework would allow StatsCan to answer these sorts of questions in a machine readable manner (perhaps relevant if more people object).

But we'd probably need to define a 'purpose' URI for
"whatever we feel like, we're the government dummy!"

For the other refusnik, the objection was moral. StatsCan had hired Lockheed Martin to create the program for processing the 2006 data and the accused felt he could not in good conscience support sending Canadian tax dollars to a (US-based) weapons manufacturer.

All the technology in the world won't help with this one.

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