“The way things are supposed to work is that we're supposed to know virtually everything about what the government do: that's why they're called public servants. They're supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that's why we're called private individuals.” —Glenn Greenwald
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' decision to retain people's names and addresses collected during Census 2016 and link the census data to personal records held by other government agencies not only raised privacy concerns, but also created a risk of damaging or destroying public trust in the ABS, and the Australian government in general.
Despite the problems with Census 2016 and widespread criticism, the ABS did not scale back its appetites for personal data. Instead, for Census 2021 they expanded their data retention and linking, thus turning what was once an anonymous snapshot of the nation into a comprehensive, life-long dossier on each Australian.
Besides exposing Australian public to the danger of hacker attacks, identity theft and personal data misuse, these privacy-invasive tactics undermine the foundations of our safe and democratic society, as it cannot function without a high level of trust and respect of private individuals for the governing institutions.
The September 2022 Optus hacking could have been way less disastrous for millons of ordinary Australians if the Australian government hadn't demanded identity checks for mobile numbers, and if people hadn't been forced to provide a phone number to almost every company and government department.