Statistics Canada mulls changes to data release system

Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:44pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Statistics Canada on Thursday said it was seeking comments about possible changes to the way it releases government data, an idea it floated in April but abandoned after a media outcry.

The federal agency said it had begun consulting news organizations on whether to delay the release of data from its media lockup room to 08:30:04 from 08:30:00, so that the material could appear simultaneously on its website.

Spokesman Peter Frayne said it can take up to four seconds to load information onto the government's website, and hence the suggestion of delaying information from the media lockup. He said there was no guarantee that data would not arrive on the website before the official lockup ended.

On April 2, Statscan said it would delay data released through the lockups by 16 seconds because it took nine to 16 seconds to post information to the Internet.

It backed down two days later after media groups complained to Statistics Canada and the office of Industry Minister Christian Paradis, warning of problems if information landed on the website before it was released through the lockups.

Many banks and trading organizations use sophisticated programs that can execute trades in less than a second after data is released.

In Statscan lockups, journalists turn in their phones and BlackBerrys, all communications lines are cut, and then Statistics Canada provides the information an hour ahead of time so that journalists can prepare reports. A Statscan official opens the communications lines at the end of the lockup. (Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Jeffrey Hodgson)