Confidentiality

By law we keep your personal census details confidential for 100 years. Until then, we will not share or publish information that would reveal personal information about you or the place you live. So your personal information is not shared with local councils, government departments, the tax office, the police or marketing agencies.

Access to census data that can identify households or individuals is strictly controlled. The 1920 Census Act made it a criminal offence to unlawfully disclose confidential census information. The Census (Confidentiality) Act 1991 extended this to people and businesses working as part of the census. Anyone who unlawfully discloses census information can be fined up to £10,000 or sent to prison for up to two years, or both.

No-one can get personal census information through a Freedom of Information request. This is set out in sections 38 and 58 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which states that personal census information is exempt from disclosure for 100 years.

The Data Protection Act 1998 controls how corporations or the government use your personal information. Its principles require everyone who collects data to follow strict rules to keep your information safe. At the heart of the Act are eight common-sense rules known as the ‘data protection principles’. These principles require any organisation, corporation or government body that collects personal information to handle it safely. You can get more information about this from the Information Commissioner’s Office website. By law, all organisations collecting and using personal information must comply with these principles.

All personal information collected in the 2011 Census is processed in Scotland. All census staff are trained how to handle personal information and they give a written commitment to confirm they understand it is a criminal offence to break the confidentiality of personal census details.

We securely wipe or destroy (or both) all data storage equipment used during the census to ensure no personal information can be retrieved. Independent checks make sure these processes meet UK government standards. We have also securely destroyed all the returned paper questionnaires. To find out more about our security procedures, see 'Protecting your data’

Everyone’s answers are combined and analysed to produce anonymised (with personal details removed) national and local statistics.

The privacy of personal census information and the protective safeguards implemented by NRS are documented in this report - January 2011 Considerations of the Impact on Public Privacy of Scotland’s Census

For more information please see our Frequently Asked Questions.