We at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are carrying out the census in England and Wales in 2021. We are an independent, non-ministerial agency that reports directly to Parliament. We are the UK’s largest producer of official statistics and recognised national statistical institute. We are trusted to collect and protect information.
The census asks questions about you, your home and the people who live in it. That is personal information that we keep safe and confidential by law.
How we keep your information safe
We have a strict security regime that follows government standards. This includes physical and IT security measures to protect your information, covering people, processes and technology.
The statistics will not show it is you
We publish statistics from the census so that local councils and central government can better understand the needs of the people living in different areas. We anonymise all information before we publish statistics, so none of your personal details are released.
Your actual census record will be kept secure for 100 years. Only then can it be seen by future generations. For example, in January 2022 you will be able to see what people put on their census forms in 1921.
The law protects you
All our systems, staff and suppliers, and the way we do things must protect your confidentiality by law.
Laws in place that cover protection of your information include:
Data Protection Act 2018
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Census Act 1920
Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
We must follow these to the letter.
How our security has been reviewed
We want to ensure you can be confident that we’ll protect all the information we collect during both the census rehearsal and Census 2021.
To support this, we, National Records of Scotland (NRS) and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) jointly commissioned an independent review of the security arrangements. Following a competitive tendering process, we together selected a specialist security company, which is certified by the National Cyber Security Centre, to perform this review.
The security company carried out a rigorous review of the ONS to assess the effectiveness of the security we’re implementing for both the census rehearsal and Census 2021. The security they assessed included governance, risk assessment and management, security operations and security assurance.
Read the details of the report published after the review .
Privacy Impact Assessment
The ONS will assess its plans to maintain the confidentiality of information supplied in the census throughout the census transformation process. This will ensure the integrity and transparency of the plans.
The initial report (see Related downloads) covers the first phase of the programme and will be updated to take account of ongoing research, emerging plans and changing requirements. The preparation of this report takes into account guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the advice of privacy advocates, stakeholders and users.