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Your privacy

After the census closes, we publish the information we have collected and make it available for use.

Before we publish data, we remove all personal information. This means you cannot be identified by any of the census data we publish.

Information we publish can include, for example, data about:

  • the age of Scotland's population
  • population levels across the country
  • what languages people in Scotland use

We keep all census responses secure and confidential for 100 years. We also keep the number of people who can access them to a minimum.

Census responses will be published and made available to the public in the future. Currently, this is intended to be in 100 years but will be done in accordance with the laws of the time.

Protected by law

It is against the law to disclose confidential census data. This is set out in the The Census Act 1920.

The Census (Confidentiality) Act 1991 extended this to people and businesses working as part of the census.

Anyone who unlawfully discloses census data can be:

  • fined up to £10,000
  • sent to prison for up to 2 years
  • or both

No one can get personal census data through a Freedom of Information request. This is set out in sections 38 and 58 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

The Acts state that personal census data is exempt from disclosure for 100 years.

Data protection legislation controls how organisations can use the personal data they hold. Everyone who collects personal data must follow strict rules to keep that data safe and use it fairly, lawfully and transparently.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out the key principles, rights and obligations for most processing of personal data. You can find more information about data protection on the website of the Information Commissioner's Office.

Find out more about the legislation behind the 2020 census.

Keeping your information secure

We are serious about the security of census information. Your census return will be kept secure and will be confidential for 100 years.

The census in 2022 will be the first where we plan for the majority of responses to be online.

Our online system for Scotland’s Census 2022 is being built to both UK Government standards and Scottish Government standards.

Read more about an independent audit that has reviewed our security and privacy standards to make sure they:

  • are safe
  • are secure
  • meet the highest industry standards

Data Protection Impact Assessment

We have a produced a Data Protection Impact Assessment for the 2022 census.