The census is a kind of inventory, only that no goods in the warehouse are counted, but people in the country – and data on the living situation in Germany is also collected. All EU member states are obliged to take the census, which is to take place every ten years and was postponed from 2021 to 2022 due to the corona pandemic.
So-called censuses have always been controversial. The 1987 census in the Federal Republic of Germany, against which there were civil protests and a boycott, is considered particularly controversial. This census was originally supposed to take place in 1981, but it was finally banned by the Federal Constitutional Court because the questions allowed conclusions to be drawn about the identity of the respondents.
The Federal Statistical Office justifies the need for a census by saying that it helps politicians to plan ahead. How many new apartments does Berlin need? Where should new day-care centers be built in Freiburg? The federal government, the states and the municipalities use population statistics as a basis for their planning – which should be as up-to-date as possible.
Mainly data from existing administrative registers are used. However, since some of these are incomplete and not up-to-date, the census is carried out as a supplement. In 2022, around 10.3 million randomly selected people will be affected (this corresponds to just over ten percent of the inhabitants of Germany).
In addition, there are 23 million owners of living space who have to provide information on net rents and reasons for vacancies.
Anyone who has to take part in the 2022 census will be asked to do so by letter. The questions can either be answered online or sent postage paid by post. Anyone can view the various questionnaires online, even without access data.
Respondents are given a deadline; the deadlines can vary between the federal states and the collection agencies.
Part of the population is also questioned directly. These interviews are conducted by volunteers in person and at a pre-announced date, either at the door or online.
According to the 2022 Census Act, anyone who receives the letter with the questions about the census is obliged to provide information. Incorrectly completed questionnaires should be noticed by a plausibility check. Those who do not answer will be asked several times to answer the questions. Finally, anyone who provides incorrect, incomplete or untimely information can be obliged to pay a fine. The penalty payment would only be due after a period had expired. Fines are a possible subsequent sanction.
The amount of the penalty and fines is determined by the federal states. Fines are possible up to an amount of 5000 euros.
Demographic data is requested, for example age, gender or citizenship. There are also questions about the living and housing situation, for example the number of people in the household.
It’s about the view of Germany from above. Individual attitudes play no role in the census. Be collected:
The following are expressly not collected:
The 2022 census also includes a census of buildings and apartments for owners. The reason: In Germany there is no uniform administrative register for the nationwide stock of apartments and buildings.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, the data transmission of the online questionnaire fulfills “the highest security criteria according to the specifications of the Federal Office for Information Security”. The statistical offices of the federal and state governments want to ensure that no unauthorized person has access to data that has not yet been made anonymous.
The data should be evaluated anonymously. No individual cases are presented in the processing. The results are expected to be available in November 2023. The data will be deleted by May 2026 at the latest.
As described above, the Federal Statistical Office claims that “the highest security criteria” would apply to the 2022 census. However, criticism of data protection has since emerged. The site heise online and the blog kuketz-blog.de, which specializes in data protection and IT security, criticized the cooperation between the census site and Cloudflare, a US service.
Cloudflare is intended to ensure that hacker attacks on the census site can be repelled and that operation can also take place under maximum load – i.e. many users on the site. The company has some of its servers located in the US. Can data therefore flow to the USA in the 2022 census?
First of all, the data protection declaration on the census website did not inform about the cooperation with Cloudflare. In the meantime, this deficiency has been remedied under the subheading “Use of Content Delivery Network”. The Federal Statistical Office assured heise online that only European Cloudflare servers would be used.
In addition, Cloudflare would not have access to the sensitive data that census participants must disclose after logging into the questionnaire area, such as name, place of residence and gender. This data is end-to-end encrypted and is only processed on federal servers in Germany.
Cloudflare, on the other hand, would only process data that is generated when you visit the non-password-protected area of the census page, including the date and time of access. Only this data can possibly be transferred to a third country such as the USA, should this be necessary due to a law or a binding order from a US authority.