FORGET the Terminator. A different threat roams the streets of Slovak cities: the Identifikátor. The use of a unique ID number attached to all census questionnaires has become a key factor in the heated public debate about the ongoing national census, which focuses on three key issues:
1. The necessity of the census. The law on census 2011 was passed way back in 2008 but it has started receiving wider attention only now, when little can be changed. Still, the key arguments against a census sound compelling – the state already has most of the information about real estate, car ownership and demographic structure in its various databases and compiling their data would be both more accurate and probably cheaper. The information the state lacks, such as religious affiliation or mobile phone use, could be gained through selective polls.
2. The quality of preparation. Municipal councils responsible for collecting the data have been complaining for months that they received inadequate support from the Statistics Office – in some cities entire blocks were missing in their documents and maps. There has been no campaign to ensure that the results reflect the actual size of the Roma population – the estimate is between 250,000 and 400,000 but the last census showed their numbers to be under 100,000. And the Statistics Office is terrible at explaining its methods.
3. Anonymity. At first, census organisers presented the entire enterprise as anonymous. But, thanks to the “Identifikátor” it is not, which the Statistics Office later admitted.
These are not the only reasons why this census has stirred more controversy than previous ones. This time there was also a massive clash of state institutions. The Interior Ministry accused the Statistics Office of mishandling the project and the Data Protection Office issued a warning against the lack of anonymity. Statistics Office boss Ľudmila Benkovičová, appointed by the previous government, says that she has done no wrong.
The cabinet is keeping her until the end of the census. But after that she is likely to hear, a la The Terminator: “Hasta la vista, baby”.
30. May 2011 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila