canada dumps long-form census

I’m a little late catching up to the news, and dismayed to learn about the unexpected decision by the Industry Minister to stop administering the long form of the Canadian census to 20% of households. The Minister cites the desire to avoid invasion of privacy, which would be laughable if it weren’t so sad, as anyone who has tried to access Canadian data might know that we have a Fort Knox of data to contend with up here. StatsCan holds data so tightly up here that scholars who want to work on it have to go through a criminal background check and work only in special labs on a few university campuses. They are prevented from taking data home, and have to run all their work past guardians of privacy.

So, without consultation of the social scientists, municipalities, social service providers, or anyone else who uses these data, the Minister made a wholesale change, switching instead to a survey that is voluntary–the equivalent of an internet poll, really, and a waste of the paper it is printed on. What a terrible decision.

7 thoughts on “canada dumps long-form census”

  1. I’ve had some experience with the Fort Knox quality of Stats Canada. They won’t even let regression tables for geocoded data out of the room unless the coefficients have been rounded off enough to prevent privacy violations and wouldn’t let preliminary regression results be shown to a dissertation committee.

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  2. In general I do think we should care about privacy in data (there are precedents of use of census data for internment camps for example), but it is interesting that in an era of google maps, satellites, cameras, facebook and all the information that any company can get from you, that people are so worked up about the census and not about all these other things.

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  3. This is stupid if you ask me, we need the census for our help it has nothing to do with invading privacy its just to find out how many people are in the house hold. And a criminal background check doesn’t make a difference in who should work for them.

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  4. My guess is that he invasion of privacy is in asking the questions at all, not the security of the data once its collected.

    Some people feel very uncomfortable putting basically their whole life story down on a piece of paper and mailing it off to a stranger.

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  5. Canada’s Chief Statistician just resigned in what seems like* protest over this decision.

    *Sometimes Canadians are so polite that I need a Canadian-to-American translation to understand them precisely.

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