Czech census official tells ROMEA TV all identifying information will be removed from census forms to guarantee anonymity
"Data protection is one of the most important matters that the Czech Statistical Office is in charge of. Nobody need be at all concerned that the data they provide about themselves will be released in a way that would not be anonymous," Jolana Voldánová, press spokesperson for the 2021 Census in the Czech Republic, told online broadcaster ROMEA TV in an interview last week.
The determination of an individual's ethnicity or nationality is a frequent subject of discussion in the Czech Republic, and many criticize the idea of the Government asking for such information, calling it the unjustified accumulation of sensitive data about individuals and alleging that there is a risk such data could be abused. It is exactly such data, however, that could be of practical significance.
Several rights that are anchored in specific laws, such as the right to establish a local Committee on National Minorities, or the right to have signage posted in multiple languages on the buildings of state bodies, municipal authorities and streets, or the right to be educated in the language of a national minority, all flow from the number of members of a national minority ascertained during the census. According to the Czech Statistical Office, the data individuals provide about their nationality or nationalities is anonymized according to a strict process, just like all other information acquired during the census.
"It is genuinely the case that only the Czech Statistical Office works with that data. It is used just for statistical purposes," the census press spokesperson explained to ROMEA TV.
"This is basically a founding principle of statistics, that even the law cannot make it possible for any of the information collected about individuals to be given to anybody else. That means that nobody will ever find out any specific, personal data about me as Jolana Voldánová - not any state bureaucrats, not the Labour Office, not the social welfare office, not the police, not any other authorities," she said.
The census is held just every 10 years, and the scale of that timeframe is one of the reasons there is no ongoing campaign to motivate the Romani minority to declare their nationality during it. The opportunity to freely declare one's Romani nationality has been available to Romani people three times since 1989.
In 1991, 32 903 Romani people declared their nationality during the last Czechoslovak census; in 2001 just 11 746 Romani people declared their nationality during the first census in the newly-independent Czech Republic; and during the most recent census in 2011, the number of people declaring Romani nationality grew slightly, to 13 150. "I believe the Statistical Office has done all it could to inform national minorities about the census during the preparatory phase," Voldánová told ROMEA TV.
"Information leaflets have been published that are basically addressing national minorities and explaining all the issues associated with such optional data, with declaring nationality and with data protection security. The Czech Statistical Office has been collaborating quite actively on this with the Office of the Government, or rather, with the Council for National Minorities," Voldánová told ROMEA TV.
The Czech census will begin at midnight from 26-27 March 2021 online at www.scitani.cz and those participating will be able to optionally provide their nationality, where it will be possible to list two nationalities for one person. It will also be possible for each individual to list two mother tongues, such as Czech and Romanes.
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