Skip to content or view screen version

Misunderstanding the Census

Pinkolady | 08.03.2011 18:40 | 2011 Census Resistance

Lockheed Martin might make a tidy profit out of running the census (why else would they have bid for the contract?) but no branch of the US government is going to get the personal details of British citizens.

There seems to be some paranoia about Lockheed Martin/ the American government/ the FBI getting access to people's personal details if they fill in and send back their census forms. This is not in fact an issue and it is based on a misunderstanding of how the census operates.

None of the data collected for the census can leave the UK. The government department that owns the census data and produces statistics from it, the Office of National Statistics, is well aware that its credibility would be shattered if there was any leak or loss of people's personal data. It has therefore made sure that there is almost no chance of this happening.

Nobody at Lockheed Martin will get access to any personal data. No organisation except the Office of National Statistics will get access to it. Once the data have been studied to produce statistics, the census forms will be microfilmed and the microfilm archived for 100 years. Then the original forms will be destroyed, as will all computer software used to collect information. The only other people who might get to see people's personal details are those employed to collect forms house to house, and to help disabled people to fill in their forms, and those working at the helpline call centre. All these employees have been security vetted and have had to sign a confidentiality agreement. They can be prosecuted if they leak information or even breach any of the security protocols. The call centre has a frightening level of security. One man who took his packet of cigarettes into the secure area with him was not allowed to take them out again until a security person had examined every cigarette and the cigarette packet. The reason for that was, it is possible to write down somebody's personal information on a cardboard packet.

Lockheed Martin has contracted out the physical task of collecting the census information to a group of 'partner organisations' which are all based in Britain. These include the Royal Mail, which has to sort and deliver census forms separately from the rest of the mail. It also includes an obscure charity called BSS which makes its money by arranging call centre services for various other organisations. Its call centre employees work for the same insultingly low pay and in the same oppressive conditions as call centre workers everywhere. How an organisation that employs the modern equivalent of sweatshop labour gets charitable status is something I don't know.

There are probably good reasons not to return your census form, but the possibility of the FBI getting hold of your personal information is not one of them.

The fact that a British government department is paying British taxpayers' money to a foreign arms dealer could be a good reason. Refuseniks should be aware however that refusing outright and up front to fill in the census form is a criminal offence; you need to know you are taking that risk. How well the law is enforced is another question. I am reliably informed that they only prosecuted 63 refuseniks from the last census.

Why am I posting this? I think if people are going to protest about something, they should have accurate information about what the issues are first.

How do I know all this? Well, I briefly worked at the census call centre. They fired me after one week. I have never been given the reason, but I doubt it was to do with my political leanings. It could have been that I was too obviously sceptical of the management's insistence that I was working on an "exciting project". It could have been that I did not show the correct level of enthusiasm for the compulsory group activities that were intended to 'Build The Team'. I have worked in teams before, many times, and I don't see how it improves the team spirit to tie two people together with string and ask the rest of the team to work out how to free them without untying any of the knots. That's just one example of the compulsory group activities. The whole thing felt like "Brave New World" but without the group sex. Now, that would have made the project 'exciting'!



Hide the following 11 comments

Problem is we understand it all to well

08.03.2011 20:19

"None of the data collected for the census can leave the UK."

An absolute statement.

In the real world only death and taxes can be guaranteed, nothing to do with a census can be guaranteed.

"The government department that owns the census data and produces statistics from it, the Office of National Statistics, is well aware that its credibility would be shattered if there was any leak or loss of people's personal data."

You might be right. However, the law says that they are perfectly entitled to pass on personal data in certain circumstances

No amount of hot air by census officials will change what the law says and it is what the law says that matters.

"It has therefore made sure that there is almost no chance of this happening."

Earlier you made an absolute statement. Now the weasel words have started.

"Nobody at Lockheed Martin will get access to any personal data."

You can guarantee that they have not introduced back doors and will not be able to copy data while maintaining systems. This is what the fictional official Sir Humphrey Appleby called a "brave" claim.

"The only other people who might get to see people's personal details are those employed to collect forms house to house, and to help disabled people to fill in their forms,"

Wrong, it is their responsibility to read all the personal details. Anyone who vouches that none of them will copy personal details is a fool or a liar.

"and those working at the helpline call centre. All these employees have been security vetted and have had to sign a confidentiality agreement. They can be prosecuted if they leak information or even breach any of the security protocols."

Gosh, that'll stop them. Not.

You may recall from history lessons that once the penalty for stealing information was death. Not even the prospect of being hung, electrocuted, shot, gassed, having one's head cut off and so on prevented people from stealing information.

Nobody who steals information is going to face that these days.

And you claim people's personal information will be stolen.


A N Other

If the FBI wanted your information....

08.03.2011 21:39

.......they would simply ring up the UK government and get it. I also think its a good idea to refuse to fill in the census, but its got nothing to do with the US getting information on me.


Census info is available to uk/eu businesses

09.03.2011 08:39

Here's an interesting report from RT News

Have a look at the statement from the Office for National Statistics;

'All data is the property of the ONS and only UK- or EU-owned companies will have any access to personal census data.'

Given the ways in which UK and EU businesses operate, it seems to me that our information will be available to anyone willing to pay for it. Clearly, this is implied in the above statement.

Lockheed Martin may not have direct access to our info but the US can demand info via the Patriot Act; if that happened, do you really think the British state would protect us?

Additionally, when it comes to maintaining data protection of personal information, we have an appalling track record of institutional incompetence. So why should we trust the State with this information?

An appropriate response to the Census can be found here - I recommend everyone send a copy of the following letter via recorded delivery (note:Jil Matheson is CEO of the Office for National Statistics) :)

Office for National Statistics
Government Buildings
Cardiff Road
South Wales
NP10 8XG

Notice of Conditional Acceptance and Request for Clarification

Dear Ms. Matheson,

I write in response to the Census form received on --/03/2011.

I must admit to being a little confused, it was my understanding that the census was instigated as a simple numerical count of the population; however, the information required in this census form far exceeds this mandate.

I am happy to complete this census form subject to receipt of clarification of the following points.

1. What law requires me to complete the census?
2. From where does the Office for National Statistics derive the lawful authority to demand private information?
3. Is there a limit to invasion of privacy?
4. Is the Office for National Statistics lawfully authorised to demand Private property?
5. How can we be penalised for failure to provide information
6. Are there any circumstances whereby security agencies may access census information?
7. Since census data be requested by law enforcement, can I not answer so as to not to incriminate myself?
8. Since every government database has been hacked, leaked, lost or compromised in some fashion, how can the Office for National Statistics claim data security with any confidence?
9. Is the Office for National Statistics responsible for mishandled data?
10. What evidence do you have that I am a United Kingdom Resident?
11. Can you confirm or deny that the census data will be handled by an American Arms Manufacturer Lockheed Martin?
12. Can you confirm or deny that all U.S. companies are subject to the Patriot Act which allows the U.S. Government full access to any data in that company’s possession?
13. Can you confirm or deny that the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 section 39 subsection 4 would allow disclosure of personal information to any and/or all o the following:

• The 56 geographical and 8 non-geographical UK Police Forces.
• The three UK Intelligence Agencies (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ).
• The Department for Work and Pensions.
• Private investigators working for the Department for Work and Pensions to hunt down “benefits cheats”.
• Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax investigators.
• “Approved” Insurance Industry “anti-fraud” investigators / private investigators.
• The Home Office Borders and Immigration Agency.
• The Serious Organised Crime Agency (either for domestic investigations into Serious Crimes, or for these and also for minor investigations if requested by a Foreign Law Enforcement agency under Mutual Legal Assistance treaties.
• Lawyers in civil Court Cases e.g. for Divorce or Libel or Copyright Infringement etc.
• Local Authority Trading Standards departments.
• Local Authority Environmental Health departments.

Please provide your response in the form of a Statement of Truth, sworn under penalty of perjury and upon your full commercial liability within seven (7) days of receipt of this notice, I respectfully return your census form until such time as these conditions are met.

If I do not receive such a response conforming to the above criteria within, it will be deemed a tacit agreement by your acquiescence that this census is unlawful and that I have no obligation to participate.

Sincerely without malice, ill will, vexation or frivolity

Enc: Original paperwork as received


Trust Lockheed Martin?

09.03.2011 11:34

So, we're being asked to trust Lockheed Martin and a US government armed with the Patriot Act?


I won't worry about it.

09.03.2011 11:55

I shall be doing with the census papers the same as I have done with all the tax returns sent to me over the past ten years. They go in the bin. I do not contract with government agencies, except where I chose to purchase a specific service. But then I don't claim the dole or benefits or anything of that nature. And I have privet(charity) healthcare insurance should I ever need it.

What I object to is the (war criminal) government treating people as tax cows and national debt loan collateral. We can only be kept it the cattle stalls that we refuse to see.


the old false dichitomy deception.

09.03.2011 12:58

Data security is surely a secondary concern to that if supporting an arms manufacturer that materially supports war crimes.

bs detector

Article 8 Human Rights Act.

09.03.2011 16:16

The European Statute which takes precedence could be used as a reason for refusing to complete the census form. We are supposed to have the right to privacy in our private lives etc. There are so many questions that are asking about very private matters in the census, so it can be argued we have the right to refuse to reply to them.

Bear in mind that the 100 year closure that used to apply to census returns was waived with the 1911 census and this was available in 2008. This was because the interest in genealogy means it is a great profit making business to give public access to the census. Who knows, the 2011 may be available in fifty years if they decide they want to make money out of it quickly.

I wouldn't bet on any of the information being kept secret from any prying eye of whichever state wants it.

Ann Archist

boycotting the census + avoiding prosecution

09.03.2011 17:27

In the last census there were only a small number of prosecutions. This was because:

"...ONS follows a policy of only prosecuting in cases where it has obtained clear and sufficient evidence of a refusal that more or less guarantees success in the courts. Measured by this yardstick, the 2001 Census non-compliance exercise may be deemed to be a success since only 1 out of the 38 cases heard to date has been dismissed."

That's from the horses mouth:

In other words, out of the unknown number of non-compliers, only 38 were prosecuted, and 37 of those were found guilty.

I also found this in another report:
"The comparatively low prosecution rate for noncompliance
in the 2001 Census was the result of several
factors stemming from particular circumstances prevailing
at the time of the Census. But a key factor was undoubtedly
the difficulty encountered by the field staff in obtaining
sufficiently good quality documentation and interviews
under caution in proper accordance with the Police and
Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice that would be
necessary to satisfy a court."

So, in other words, avoid the people who come round to knock on your door and follow up. If you can't avoid them, remain completely silent and don't talk to them; you could pretend you don't understand the language, or simply shut the door on them. Eventually they will have to give up.

If you want to avoid prosecution DON'T say anything that could be construed as evidence that you have received a census and refused to complete it - unless you prefer the strategy of being completely up-front, explaining your reasons, being a conscientious objector etc. Which also has merit, but it's up to you.


Information Sharing!

09.03.2011 20:31

I have to say I'm stunned at the appalling naivete of this article in terms of simply believing that Lockheed Martin cannot use the information gathered in the census for unscrupulous reasons. There seems to be an inability to understand just how easy it is to redirect this information digitally. At some point in the process "chain" the entire data collected will leave the UK and will end up in the US. This isn't just possible, it is absolutely certain.

Why, because it is in the US's national interests to do this, both from a National security point of view and a commercial point of view. This fact will never be known by either the media, much of the British Government or the British people. Nobody will ever be prosecuted even if the fact becomes known, which it won't.

Lockheed Martin has been chosen to process the data for a reason, it is a corporation that has the data handling capabilities needed not only to process the information, but has existing "relationships" with the security and intelligence services in the US that "compel" it to act in the national and commercial interests of the US.

We must not forget that this census is being done in wartime and therefore, information sharing between axis powers is normal, not exceptional.

There can be no question at all that any statement made by the British Government is in ANY way believable. The British Government is acting in concert with the US.

Your Government has purposely awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin precisely to ensure this information successfully reaches the US security services.

Assertions to the contrary, are little more than hot air.


Article 9

10.03.2011 00:02

You are free to hold a broad range of views, beliefs and
thoughts, as well as religious faith.

I'm opposed to supporting war mongers.

BS detector

Missed the point

17.03.2011 16:11

Pinkolady has. Apart from the alleged "security" of the data being risible, as pointed out, this census is being conducted by the world's biggest and most deadly terrorist gang, Lockheed Martin. These are egregious war criminals on a staggering scale. Quite apart from the issue of trusting them (which only an idiot would), no person of conscience of simple human compassion would want to touch any activity of theirs with a baregpole.