Thursday, 10 March 2011

2011 UK Census Controversy

You've seen the television campaigns, you've seen the posters, and you've seen the large purple envelope land through your door. Every ten years since 1801, except during the Second World War, we have had a census in the UK. This year's census will be taking place on the 27th March and includes more questions then ever before, relating to what kind of dwelling you live in, what the names and D.O.Bs are for overnight visitors, which languages you speak, how many bedrooms you have, what your occupation is, if you have been looking for work, how good you consider your health to be, your ethnic group and there's also the question of religion, the only "optional" question. Due to the full profile the detailed questions form of a person, there has been some understandable doubts and questions regarding the point of a census, and the motives behind requiring the information.

Supporters state that the £480m census is vital for the government to assign funding to services in the UK that need it the most. Critics would argue that the government have all the information they could want already and by the time the census information is collated the information would be out of date, which would render the operation a waste of time and money.

It also has been revealed that Lockheed Martin, a US arms and nuclear weapons company, have won the contract to implement the census system from the Office of National Statistics - a startling fact that has instilled doubt in many. Given it's reputation as an arms company that has supplied weapons for illegal wars and interrogation in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, census opposers have expressed that its highly inappropriate that the private company should be holding sensitive data of millions of households in the UK.

Considering Lockheed Martin are an American company who are registered in the USA, the Patriot Act 2001 could automatically apply to the collated data. The act compels any personal data held by any company on the US systems to be made available for the use of government intelligence without needing to inform those who provided the data... i.e. you!!

Therefore, the claim that the data will only be used to gain information on where spending and funding should be focused seems skewed. Is it worth spending an alleged £480m to carry out a census with the intention to figure out where the target public spending or is it just better to save that mammoth £480m and spend it on the things we need most, which everyone knows are health, education, care, transport and housing. It doesn't take a census costing £480m to figure that one out. And is it really acceptable to willingly submit your computerised personal information to such company?

Then comes the main objection that many have of the census, and that's the threatening yet wishy-washy tone of the government. "You could face a fine if you don't participate or if you supply false information." Could? "Your census response is required by law". Which law exactly? It all echoes of fascism and forced cooperation. There are many families and households that could do without the threat of imprisonment or a "hefty fine" looming over their heads.

The Wright Stuff (a morning show in the UK) is shown on Youtube to have dismissed the claims of the Lockheed Martin company being connected to the implementation of the UK census.

What's going on? The urgency as to which the caller was cut off near the end of the clip speaks volumes as to the sheer amount of deception and uncertainty surrounding the government's affiliation with a large private arms corporation. However, the affiliation is clearly stated on Lockheed Martin's website.

Make of it what you will.

Is it better to "stand up and be counted" or do you really "have the right to remain silent"?