The legal basis for population and housing censuses is provided by regulations that are binding on all of Europe and directly applicable in Member States. The census is conducted in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 763/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on population and housing censuses. Recital 2 of the Regulation states that “periodic statistical data on the population and the main family, social, economic and housing characteristics of persons are necessary for the study and definition of regional, social and environmental policies affecting particular sectors of the Community”.

Data protection issues

Participation in the population census is mandatory. All the collected data are protected in compliance with the principles of statistical confidentiality and the requirements of personal data protection. The protection of data is required by the Personal Data Protection Act as well as by other regulations concerning statistics. The processing of personal data is governed by strict security measures which ensure that the data provided to Statistics Estonia are carefully protected and used only for statistical and scientific purposes.

In Estonia, the obligation to participate in the census is prescribed by the Official Statistics Act which stipulates that respondents are required to answer all questions of a census and provide true and complete answers.

The Official Statistics Act stipulates that respondents have the right to choose whether to provide answers about their beliefs. This means that the census includes some questions that are answered on a voluntary basis. For example, nobody is obliged to answer questions concerning their religious beliefs or self-perceived health status.

The General Data Protection Regulation prohibits the processing of special categories of personal data which reveal racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation. The processing of data provided on a voluntary basis is allowed for statistical and scientific purposes, which also applies to the population and housing census.

Data security is a priority for Statistics Estonia

The conduct of population and housing censuses is strongly linked to the protection of personal data. Already in the first stage of data processing, the data are modified so as to prevent any identification of the specific respondent. All further production and analysis of statistics is done using pseudonymised data.

Pursuant to statistical legislation, Statistics Estonia cannot disseminate the collected data in any identifiable form. It is also prohibited to disseminate the data for administrative, legal, tax or control purposes. Statistics Estonia has the obligation to protect the data that are collected and processed for statistical purposes. Data security is required for personal data protection and statistical confidentiality. Statistics Estonia can disseminate data that do not allow any direct or indirect identification of individuals.

Read more about the data protection principles applied by Statistics Estonia.

European legislation on population and housing censuses

The conduct of censuses is closely connected with the regulations on personal data protection and use of databases. Data protection means that the measures required to ensure personal data protection and statistical confidentiality are implemented in all stages of the processing of confidential data.

In national law, the conduct of population and housing censuses is governed by chapter 4, “Census”, of the Official Statistics Act. This chapter defines the additional data on persons and household members that are collected and processed due to the domestic need for official statistics.

Data protection requirements are defined following the legal provisions applicable to the processing of data for statistical and scientific purposes as stipulated by European and also national legislation. Compliance with the lawfulness requirement is the primary measure ensuring that data processing is done only on legitimate grounds.