Skopje, 3 March 2021 (MIA) – The State Statistical Office (SSO) on Tuesday, a day after the official start of the 2021 census, in a press release said the census app designed for members of the diaspora is safe and can be reached only via IP address from abroad. It also warned that any disruption of the data collecting process is punishable under the census law after reports started circulating that the census app is unsafe.
The first phase of the 2021 Census of the Population, Households and Dwellings launched on Monday with staff working in diplomatic and consular offices, their families, the diaspora, army members serving abroad registering in the app. Inmates and homeless people will be also counted in this phase.
A day after its launch, a programmer in a Facebook post revealed that any person after activating VPN can provide their data from the country also even though the app is designed for Macedonian citizens living abroad.
“The app is accessible only with a IP address from abroad. Access from the Republic of North Macedonia is unavailable because the app is designed only for the nationals of the Republic of North Macedonia living abroad. Any violation of the data collecting process is punishable by the census law,” the SSO said in a statement denying that the app is unsafe.
SSO head Apostol Simovski said that it is registered when VPN app is used when people provide census data. Data aren’t stored in the data base for people who have registered from abroad, however, it is identified and stored as evidence for hacking the system.
When asked for a comment, PM Zoran Zaev said yesterday that the process of counting members of the diaspora cannot be disturbed by people from the country registering in the app, because the system after running cross referencing of data bases in the country will identify the intrusion and eliminate it.
Reacting to claims of the census app being unsafe, VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski accused the government of being incapable to organize a headcount.
He said that the opposition party might propose a bill to revoke the census before its launch in the country on April 1. “In addition to the signatures of the MPs who propose the law, it will also have the credibility of over 100,000 citizens who have signed the initiative on cancelling the census,” Mickoski stated.
Relevant authorities said the start of the operation is going according to plan in line with the census rules and procedures. A total of 11,149 registrations in the app were recorded until 10 am on Tuesday, but it is yet to be determined whether the application was completed almost 11,150 times.
The census officially ends on April 21.
On Monday, Justice Minister Bojan Marichikj stressed that census it is a key operation and urged the citizens to ‘actively contribute to the development of their own country.’
“Collecting all the data is useful for us all to create policies in education, the economy, and healthcare among all other aspects. I think the discussion was ended last week after Eurostat affirmed as well that the census law and methodology are in line with top standards. After the affirmation, all dilemmas imposed by political factors have been settled. We all need to have trust in the census, because the process is professional in line with rules and standards accompanied by COVID-19 health safety protocols. We can complete it in the interest of the citizens in a swift and effective way,” he said.