The government says it will impose fines of up to £1,000 for those who don’t fill in its compulsory census – a heavy-handed approach that makes me want to rail against it like a rebellious teenager.
Sure it may be useful for the government to know a bit more about its citizens, but should it have the right to force us to fill it in and threaten us with a £1,000 fine?
My colleague Martyn Saville argues that it does, but these tactics make me (not known as a conspiracy theorist) question its motives.
Census guilty of information overload
The very first census (dating back to 1801) showed little information other than the number of people in the UK and the occupation of the main householder.
Fast-forward to 2011 and the government needs to know almost everything about me: name; sex; occupation; relationship status; the state of my health; my educational qualifications; who I work for; what I do and how I get there… the list goes on.
According to the census website the information it collects is ‘used to help plan and fund services for your community – services like transport, education and health’. This information will be protected and private for ‘100 years’.
What happens to our data?
I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, how will telling the government if I have an ‘overnight guest’ on the day I fill in the census really help fund services? Do they really need all the information they collect?
Currently, there’s a debate raging around data minimisation and online companies such as Google, who some argue are collecting too much data. Shouldn’t the same questions be asked of HM Gov?
I’m also sceptical about how private my information will be. The government’s track record in looking after personal data isn’t great, not to mention the fact that the UK is well known as the ‘leaky bucket of Europe’.
The EU Commissioner is currently proposing, again with relation to being online, that we should have the ‘right to be forgotten’ – i.e. to regain control of our data. Should governments be exempt from this?
Jedi mind tricks
At the last census a reported 390,000 people declared their religion as Jedi and 7,000 people said they were witches.
Is this just high jinks or am I not the only one who has serious concerns about how their data will be used? With a ‘Count Me Out’ campaign gaining momentum and whispers of growing numbers of people planning to boycott the form, it seems likely I’m not alone here.
Perhaps, some people think £1,000 is a risk worth taking when it’s their privacy at stake.
Do you share these concerns or are you happy to fill the census out? Read why Martyn Saville loves the census and thinks it should go even further.
Are you for or against the 2011 census?
For (60%, 391 Votes)
Against (40%, 257 Votes)
Total Voters: 648