Guernsey census data protection a 'priority'

Nigel Lewis Mr Lewis said quarterly data really helped government planning

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Ensuring personal data is kept safe is one of the priorities in the creation of Guernsey's electronic census, a senior civil servant has said.

Nigel Lewis, deputy chief executive of the States, said information sources from departments would be anonymous.

He said the Policy Council's team, who would produce the quarterly censuses, would not have access to anybody's individual details.

Mr Lewis said to ensure this was the case a specific law was being drawn up.

He said: "We are making a new ordinance, a by-law, that protects people, to make sure we're allowed to give ourselves permission as the States to collect the census and there are various penalties and so on to make sure we don't abuse that information."

Mr Lewis said one of the reasons an electronic census could not be done before was that a system was needed that was able to pull out that information in a way that was data protection compliant.

Uncle Charlie

He said it was also taking time to ensure the various different systems around the States, from which the census data will be gathered, work with each other.

Mr Lewis said like traditional census the data would be released 100 years after the census has taken place.

He said: "One of the downsides, if you like, is that it will provide all the basic information that the family historians want - when was uncle Charlie working and what did he do, how many children did he have, when did he move from Torteval to St Peter's.

"It won't say whether he speaks patois, it won't say whether he has a particular preference for a particular food, all the extra information we used to solicit will simply not be there, that doesn't mean you can't obtain it by other means, by surveys and so on.

"Life's not perfect it would be nice to do that but it's not a practical issue for the States."

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