Australian census website crashes, amid calls for boycott | News | DW | 09.08.2016
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Australian census website crashes, amid calls for boycott

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website hosting the first online version of the national census has crashed. The Federal Government said work was underway to fix the major outage affecting the website.

Attempts to access #link: ABS website# were frequently failing on Tuesday and calls to the helpline were met with a recorded message stating that phone lines would not be answered until August 10.

"The site just cannot be reached. The phones do not answer and neither does the online messaging," one complainant wrote, while Twitter lit up with the hashtag #CensusFail.

About two-thirds of Australia's 23 million people are legally obliged to give the ABS information about their homes, religion and income on Tuesday night. The servers had reportedly been load tested for eight hours with 150 percent of the expected user numbers.

Boycott calls

Meanwhile, politicians have called for a boycott of the census over data privacy fears.

Some politicians and privacy advocates are worried about a decision to hold individuals' data for four years rather than 18 months. Australian senator Nick Xenophon from South Australia, for example, alongside four others senators said they would withhold their names and addresses.

"Rather than be a snapshot of the nation, this census will morph into a mobile CCTV that follows every Australian," Xenophon told reporters.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, meanwhile said the "government has bungled the census," although he added that he would fill in the form, since "it adds a lot more benefit to the nation than it causes harm."

The Statistical Society of Australia has also criticized the census bureau's failure to explain the changes on data storage. It said in a statement the "controversy may impact upon the quality of the data collected and may be raising unnecessary fears in the community," as reported by the Guardian Australia.

Duncan Young, the head of census, told reporters the data would be top-secret:

"Hand on heart, the security set-up in order for people to submit their information - it's encrypted all the way through from their browsers into the ABS's internal environment," he said.

Return of the Jedi

Atheists are urging Australians not to describe themselves as "Jedi" in the census, warning that doing it would make the country appear more religious than it really is.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia requested citizens mark themselves as having "no religion."

An email campaign started some years ago wrongly claimed that if 8,000 people put themselves down as Jedi it would have to be officially recognized as a religion. In the 2001 census, more than 70,500 people listed their faith as "Jedi knight" or something similar. Jedi numbers dropped in the 2006 Australian census to 58,053 but bounced back five years later to 64,390.

In the 2001 England and Wales census, 390,000 people, or 0.7 percent of the population, entered their religion as "Jedi" but were included among the atheists.

jbh/msh (dpa, AFP)

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