A national population register

April 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The national could be scrapped and replaced with an “administrative ” that wouldn’t require everyone to fill out forms, under a plan being considered by Statistics New Zealand.

But civil libertarians should put the champagne on ice.

Statistics NZ said the switch would require a new compulsory “national population register” that would record where everyone lived and which could link to their tax and health records.

Additional socio-economic data normally gathered during the five-yearly census would be obtained from public databases and by a smaller survey that might cover about 5 per cent of the population. …

“Typically a national population register provides the essential population base and is linked to an address register, to birth and death registers, and to other administrative sources such as tax, health and education data.”

Kevin McCormack, secretary of the Council for Civil Liberties, said the lobby group would consider it important the register was used only for statistical purposes and that linked data did not identify individuals. “Otherwise, it is another form of creeping ‘Big Brother’.”

I find it amazing we don’t have this already. At any point in time we don’t have an accurate list of all NZ citizens, all NZ residents etc. The birth and death records are not linked to the immigration records. A register of residents and citizens would be very useful for electoral enrolment verification, as well as statistical purposes.

There are potential privacy issues, but I don’t see such a database as meaning the Government has any additional data on you – just that it is linked together, so that one can statistically analyse it.

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16 Responses to “A national population register”

  1. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    Big Brother is a long way off. Having worked on data matching projects in the public sector in the past I can assure you that Big Brother probably has about 15 disparate identities for you, several of which probably have your name or other identifying details entered incorrectly and one of which is probably system linked to a completely different person…

    If Big Brother ever relied on the data quality of NZ government databases to conduct a purge of political opponents he’d probably end up taking out half his own secret service by accident…

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  2. anonymouse (651 comments) says:

    If someone is serious about this “big data” wet dream, then perhaps they could start with rationalising the national ID numbers that I already have,

    But my count for 99% of the population there is the National Health Index number assigned at Birth, an IRD number when ever you start work or claim a benefit, plus some form of voting ID number allocated when you enrol to vote at 18,

    Then there is what ever voluntary things like driver’s/firearms licenses and Passports, we choose to get.

    So before they start talking about *another* database , how about they rationalise the ones they already have..

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  3. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    If a government can create such a register it can also access it or link it for any purpose. A couple of years from the advent of a “statistics” database expect compulsory microchipping of all citizens.

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  4. Manolo (12,637 comments) says:

    Remind me, what do we need this for?

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  5. toms (301 comments) says:

    On the eve of ANZAC day, a chilling proposal. Who are we planning to mobilise against?

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  6. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    I have recently been entertaining a foreign friend on holiday in New Zealand. She was amazed that we do not have a national identity card.

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  7. tvb (3,945 comments) says:

    People will not fill out these forms. But rather population data could be obtained from other records. But it does seem sensible. Compliance for transient people will be very poor.

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  8. Liberty (212 comments) says:

    It’s a great idea . Providing it is voluntary. If you voluntarily decide not to suck up to the state. You should also forgo access to Social welfare etc.

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  9. Paulus (2,298 comments) says:

    It would be leaked to Greenpeace anyway (or Phil Goff).

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  10. berend (1,602 comments) says:

    DPF: At any point in time we don’t have an accurate list of all NZ citizens, all NZ residents etc.

    It’s not that it’s ever going to be abused!

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  11. slijmbal (1,134 comments) says:

    “It’s not that it’s ever going to be abused!”

    It’s pretty easy to get hold of electoral roll data for commercial purposes so business as usual really.

    Similarly, you would be surprised how many address (with demographics) databases are commercially available for marketing.

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  12. RRM (8,994 comments) says:

    “I refuse to take part in any big government information collecting!”

    “Why are the public roads, hospitals and schools in my area so shit compared to other areas?”

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  13. Grant Michael McKenna (1,152 comments) says:

    There are three things that come to mind.
    The first thing is a phrase that I learned reading the newspapers after I arrived in New Zealand from South Africa: a person “known to the police”. It refers to a person that police have suspected of criminal activity or who has been convicted; and it suggests a concept that is one of the truly great things about New Zealand: there are people that the police have no interest in, because they have never broken the law.
    The second thing is the bitter memory of 1994. After the South African elections at the end of April, I was a part of a small contingent of military personnel that were sent to Uganda to help install cell phone towers in the north of the country. At least, that was the plan; we got redirected to Rwanda on the 19th May, after having been in Uganda just over a week. Uganda provided assistance to the RPF in overthrowing the genocidaires; we were a tiny add-on.
    The thing is, it is bloody difficult to tell Hutu from Tutsi. Tutsi adults, generally speaking, can drink milk; Hutu adults, generally speaking, cannot. Historically the two communities inter-married, and shared a culture and language. The Belgians during the colonial period put tribal affiliation on identity cards, and this remained the case after independence.
    We buried thousands; so many had their identity cards still on them.
    The third thing is the “dompas”- the passes used under apartheid when Black people were only allowed to be in urban areas if they carried their pass books [commonly called "dompas" after the question asked by the police: 'Waar is jou dom pas?"/ "Where is your damn pass?"]
    We need robust privacy protections to ensure that the information cannot be misused. Given the incompetencies of the bureaucrats, repeatedly demonstrated over the last few years, I am nervous that the proposals will create a database for the identification of individuals- and I have seen the evil that such databases can facilitate.

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  14. Francis_X (143 comments) says:

    A national register? Piss off!

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  15. slijmbal (1,134 comments) says:

    @Grant

    really? Identity cards were a fundamental underpinning of dictatorships and apartheid. I would have thought the dictators, laws, armed forces, tribal wars etc. were the real problem. We should really ban the white pages and the electoral roll then.

    FYI – married in to a Jaapie family and visited there many times over 25 years and I can quite confidently say that apartheid was born out of a mixture of fear by the majority of whites and a view of black africans as barely more than animals by a hard core of south africans.

    There are plenty of brutal regimes who get by without identity cards and plenty of more civilised countries who have them. However, this discussion is about a national register not identity cards.

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  16. peterwn (2,938 comments) says:

    Some countries eg Italy have such systems, although how effective they are, goodness know. In Italy, for example, you have to register as a resident even though you have a EU passport, and the cops come round to your address to check that you live there. Otherwise you cannot open a bank account or buy a SIM card.

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