Diritto & Internet

Permanent census: the Data Protection Authority advises caution

From October 2018 Istat (the Italian National Institute of Statistics) will conduct its census of the Italian resident population on a yearly basis and no longer every ten years. In contrast with past censuses, the new permanent census no longer involves all families at the same time, but only a sample of them.

This will involve about 1,400,000 families every year. The main advantages introduced by the new system are a considerable reduction in costs and inconvenience to families.

However, the new census is able to provide representative information on the whole population thanks to the integrated use of the data collected from two different sample surveys (an online questionnaire and door-to-door interviews) with data from administrative sources.

Under the EU Regulation, authorizing the first stage of the census (namely the collection of data), the Italian Data Protection Authority has requested that those families included in the “door-to-door surveys” should also have access to alternative means to these face to face surveys, which would ensure the same guarantees envisaged for those who will receive the Istat letter at home which can be answered on a pc or by phone.

The Authority’s measure aims to avoid the obligatory presence of the data collector, who will collect interviewees’ answers directly, causing undue inconvenience or embarrassment to citizens, especially in small communities.

The Authority considers that the door-to-door method of data collection might cause greater interference in the privacy of the people concerned (especially of those who are vulnerable or apprehensive such as the elderly and the sick), who would find themselves in the position of having to provide a substantial amount of detailed information about their family and home to a perfect stranger under threat of a fine.

Although the Authority recognizes the objective pursued by Istat to be of considerable public interest, it has reaffirmed the need to overcome the critical issues detected in connection with the high level of risk for the freedom and rights of all persons concerned caused by the new permanent census which, compared to the past, is characterized by the massive use of administrative databases such as the Central Tax Register, Inps (the Italian Social Security Service) and Miur (the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research).

So, in order to be able to proceed to the next stages, Istat will have to set out all the guarantees and measures which are necessary, but which have not yet been identified, in order to be compliant with the regulation on data protection.

Scientific Director
Prof. Avv. Giusella Finocchiaro
Editorial Curator
Dott. Giulia Giapponesi