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Census. The Authority's Clarifications

The information gathered through census forms includes first and last name of respondents because census data are also used to update council registry databases. However, Istat is not allowed to know these personal data. In addition, forms can be collected only by enumerators or council officers in charge. The Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Protection will anyhow supervise census activities as far as citizens' privacy protection is concerned.

This was the Authority's clarification in response to questions asked by a large number of citizens and, specifically, by a consumers' association who addressed some issues about the ongoing 14th General Population and Housing Census. In particular, the Authority has been asked why forms are not anonymous and enclosed into an evelope, so they can not be read by anyone.

In response to the first question, the Authority made it clear that, according to census laws, data registered by the census are also necessary to update and review council registry databases. Councils in fact update their registries on the base of last and first name, gender, place and date of birth of the persons registered by the census.

Anyhow, this information (the so-called "directly identifying data") will not be available to Istat. In fact, it is contained in the first page of the census form, which is detached from the rest and retained by the councils.

As far as the collection procedures are concerned, the Authority reminded that the forms are delivered to the enumerators, who are in charge of helping citizens' to fill them and are bound to statistical confidentiality and data privacy. Enumerators only, or possible other council officers in charge, provided with precise instructions, can collect census forms, which are later delivered to the council census office.

In addition to the large number of advices so far provided by Istat to keep the level of privacy protection high, the Authority has recently decided to carry out inspections and controls aimed at verifying the careful respect of the provided instructions.

Roma, 31 October 2001