Canadian online census violates privacy

On May 16, 2006, Canadians will do their 5-year census. There is an option to fill it out online.

According to:

You need to have one of:

Internet Explorer 7.0 Internet Explorer 6.0 Internet Explorer 5.5 Internet Explorer 5.01 Netscape Navigator 7.0 or higher Firefox 1.0.4 Mozilla 1.7.8 Safari 1.2.4 with webkit 125.5.7

This is because:

Notice: You must have a browser with Java virtual machine (JVM) from Sun Microsystems Inc. (Version 1.4.2_3 or higher), Microsoft virtual machine (any version), or Apple JVM (1.4.2_5 or higher) that supports 128-bit encryption.

Now if there is one thing everyone should have learnt — client side Java is not a way to deal with private information.

If I were doing an online census, I would require the opposite: that you have Java, Javascript and ActiveX disabled when you fill out the forms. While there is no practical or theoretical way to be sure that there are no key-loggers running as a Windows BackOrifice service, at least one can be sure that there are no trivial ones living in the web browser.

I intend to bring this up with the Chief Statistician.