Australian online Census name fields restricted to ASCII printable characters

If you have a name involving accents or ligatures, then the Australian Census fields will not be able to handle your data.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The limitations of the IBM-developed online system used for next Tuesday's Australian Census are becoming clearer, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics telling ZDNet that the fields for first names and surnames can only handle ASCII printable characters.

"Text is free-form, limited to ASCII printable characters, 100 character text limit each," an Australian Bureau of Statistics spokesperson said.

ABS said for people with names that contain characters that are not within the 95 permitted characters -- such as those with an acute, grave, or umlaut -- they should use the "most appropriate substitution".

Australians with mononyms, a single name, are recommended to enter the same name in both fields, or alternatively, put the mononym into one field with "any character" into the other field.

A furore has erupted in recent days over plans by the ABS to store the names and addresses of Australians for four years, on the basis of being able to link the Census data with other datasets.

Yesterday, Australian Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack said he was assured of the security protections put in place for the 2016 Census data.

"Never been a breach, the ABS assures us that this won't happen into the future with this Census, and governments of all persuasion take that information and assurances on board," McCormack told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

"The ABS has never had a privacy breach with Census data showing, and they have assured me as the minister responsible, they've assured the government, that they have every protocol in place, every process in place to ensure that there isn't a breach this time."

Treasurer Scott Morrison said yesterday 100,000 people had already filled in the Census online, and backed the approach taken by the ABS and its contractor IBM.

Earlier in the week, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Opposition Leader for Tasmania and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing Senator Helen Polley told ZDNet that the ABS should not collect names, and instead Australians should be given an identity number as a method for addressing community unease.

"I don't understand the necessity of having to complete the Census with your name," Polley said on Tuesday.

"You should be able to be identified with a number."

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