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Harry Potter and the Bureau of Statistics

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"This is not good," said Hermione, looking up from the array of monitors and information hardware devices in front of her. "The Australian Bureau of Statistics have announced they want to record the names, addresses, and personal details of all Australians and keep that data for the next four years."

"What's wrong with that?" asked Harry, not bothering to look up from his phone. "I mean, I give Magebook all that info anyway, right?"

"You choose to give that information to Magebook, Harry! It's not like they're holding the threat of fines over your head if you don't disclose what livestock you own."

"Livestock?" said Harry, glancing up from his game for a moment. "You know that Hedwig has her own fan-page? It's got over—"

"I know how many fans it has, Harry! And it's nothing but stupid memes! This is serious!"

"Stupid memes?" said Harry, breaking into a lopsided grin. "They always have me owling with laught—HEY!"

Hermione dangled the end of the disconnected USB cable between her fingers. "Harry, your phone's battery will survive if you pause your game for just a moment and work with me. You're supposed to be doing your project for Defence against the Democratic Arts, remember?"

"I... I am working on my phone! Right now I was deciding what I'd like to eat for Brexit!"

Hermione gently placed her face in the palm of her hand. When she accepted the job from Hogwarts to provide extra tutoring to their top athletes, she never imagined it was going to be like this.

"Harry, I've received three invites to Candy Crush in the last five minutes alone. I know you're not working."

"Fine," said Harry, rolling his eyes. "But you know this is rubbish, right? As long as I keep winning Quidditch Song Contents, Hogwarts won't possibly let me fail. They need to win the EuroWizard song contest to maintain their international reputation."

"Win, Harry?"

"Okay, at least not come third last again."

"Yes, and how are your singing lessons going?"

"Hagrid and I have our kazoo-and-beatboxing routine down very well, thank you."

"I'm going to go out for some air," said Hermione, "come and get me when you want to learn, okay?"

In the back room of a fish'n'chip shop in the Southeast Land of Queens, there was a meeting of the Dark Demographers.

"I'm sorry, my lady," said David Kalisch, Australian Statistician and Demogramancer, "if we keep the personal information of Australians for a full five years, the muggles will know we're trying to link each result to the next, keeping their personal data attached to the Census!"

A dark expression spread across Pauline Malfoy's face... "I don't like it."

"I know, my lady. But we can keep their names for four years. Plus we can process their names into unique identifiers, and retain those, and our 'aggregate data' can be made so fine-grained there'd be no question about reversing the process whenever we need to."

"And what do the rest of the demogramancers think of this, Kalisch?"

"They're delighted, my lady. They point out we can link in people's medical data, and other information that people would flat-out refuse to give us if we asked. The only thing we need is someone to implement the muggle infrastructure to collect the data."

"Excellent," said Pauline, steepling her fingers. "Does anyone suspect what we're doing?"

"Nobody, except for a few thousand privacy advocates, information security professionals, readers of The Guardian, The Shovel, subscribers to the ABC, a socially concerned witch at Hogwarts, anyone with social media, and Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin."

Pauline's smile grew wider.

"Oh, and Nick Xenophon. Says he's going to boycott. Everyone thinks you're afrai—"

"I told you," said Pauline, her face becoming like stone, "I am not a Xenophobe."

Hermione knew that Harry would never start any real work on his own, and took the opportunity to call the only people she knew that could help the situation.

"Hello! This is IBM, George Weasley speaking."

"George! It's Hermione!"

"Hermione! How are things? Have you see the latest post on Hedwig's scroll? It's a real hoot!"

"George, I'd love to chat, I really would, but I need your help with something. Can I come visit this afternoon? Is Fred in the office?"

"Of course! How's 3pm? What's this about?"

"I need you to help with an infrastructure deployment..."

David Kalisch looked skeptically at the meeting briefing on his desk. "Special Offer! Today only! Census infrastructure only $9.6 million dollars!"

"That feels a little too good to be true," thought Kalisch, checking his books. He remembered a public transport ticketing system costing about a 150 times that. But then again he remembered that government had to replace another ticketing system that had been working perfectly well for years, a difficult task indeed, whereas sites like Magebook handled much more than 23 million users every day, so maybe $9.6 million dollars was right after all. And this was from a Dark Demographer approved company; they had helped develop a machine that is now the best cancer diagnostician on the planet and sold it to a health insurance company that was known for treating its customers terribly when diagnosed with cancer. He pressed the button on his intercom; "Kevin, send the representatives from IBM in, please."

Fred and George entered the room, wearing crisp corporate attire, hair the colour of autumn leaves slicked back, and looking every part that of highly paid, corporate executives. Which they were, of course. The Weasley twins had fallen into the lifestyle of many folks in IT of funding a ludicrous number of bad ideas on Kickstarter, and had to pay for the habit somehow. It just turned out that many of the skills needed to pull a really good prank were the same needed to work in selling bespoke IT systems.

"Mr Kalisch," said George, extending a hand. "I'm George, this is Fred. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise," said Kalisch. "I believe you specialise in census infrastructure?"

"Of course," said Fred. "We've been running cloud systems longer than anyone."

"I understand that, but the government's current stance is that climate change isn't real, so we're not talking about clouds today. What I need is a way to collect the personal information of all the muggles in Australia. Apparently they'll just give it to us, but they'll get suspicious if we insist on them filling out scrolls again. Can you help with the muggle technological side of things?"

George and Fred glanced at each other, "How many people are we talking about here?"

"Well, that's why we need the census, really, to find out. But we think there's about 23 million."

"And they're all going to submit their data at once?"

Kalisch laughed, "No. About half of them are going to use scrolls."

"I thought you said they'd get suspicious if we sent them scrolls?"

"Not if we only send them to half. The rest are going to use your thing."

"So about 12 million people."

"That's right."

"All in one day?"


"So 12 million people, divided by 24 hours... so we need to handle half a million an hour?" asked George.

"Actually," said Kalisch, "we may have a problem if everyone does it all at the same time..."

"We've got a muggle friend," said George, "she says that muggles aren't very organised, so I doubt they'll all try to do it after tea or anything. But how about we make it so the site can handle a million per hour, just to be sure?"

"Perfect!" said Kalisch.

Fred and George grinned in unison, "We'll get right on it. Thank you so much for your time."

Kalisch leaned back in his chair as the Weasleys left, delighted that the meeting had gone so well. Flipping open his phone he checked his messages, and chuckled at a share from Kevin about the department doing "Owlgebra". It sure was going to be a good census.

The smell of cooking oil hung thick in the air, as Pauline Malfoy looked down upon Kalisch. "What. Is. The. Meaning. Of. This!?"

"It's... it's overloaded," said Kalisch, dark rings under his eyes from stress and lack of sleep. "It's like twelve million people are all trying to use the site at once?"

"Twelve million?" Malfoy scowled. "How is this possible?"

"I don't know! It must be an overseas attack! There's no way twelve million people in Australia could be trying to use the site at one time!"

In the Three Broomsticks, Hermione, Harry, Fred, and George were sharing stories over a few mugs of butterbeer.

"I can't believe you managed to pull that off," said Harry scratching the back of Hedwig's head affectionately. "I was just telling Hermione the other day about how terrible the census was..."

Hermione, George, and Fred all collectively raised their eyebrows and stared at Potter.

"Okay, so it was Hermione's idea, but we were working on a project together!"

Hermione coughed politely and turned to the Weasleys. "George, Fred, thank you for all you've done. Thanks to your efforts in underprovisioning, the privacy of Australians are now safe."

"Well, they still have to pony up all their personal information," said Fred, "and it'll be combined in ways that citizens find objectionable, and probably misused by current and future governments, but it sure was funny when the website crashed and they blamed it on hackers!"

"Owl say!" said Harry, ducking behind Hedwig in a poor attempt at ventriloquism. And everybody laughed, except for Australian residents, citizens, minorities, privacy advocates, Huffington Post readers, and Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin.