If the LulzSec hackers really have got the UK Census... we're in big trouble

Following the hacking of Sony, the CIA, the Senate, SOCA and more, LulzSec now may have the UK Census data.

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"All your data are belong to us."
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Daniel Hamilton
On 21 June 2011 11:52

The claims this morning from increasingly infamous hacking group LulzSec that they have obtained a copy of the entire 2011 Census are profoundly concerning. 

They come, however, as no surprise to Big Brother Watch who have for months been warning the public about the risks of this information falling into the wrong hands. 

If these rumours are proved to be correct, it will demonstrate that each and every one of the commitments made by the Office of the National Statistics about the safety and security of their databases was entirely bogus.

From the Treasury’s loss of CDs containing millions of people’s bank accounts details to this latest fiasco surrounding the Census, the government has proved it simply cannot be trusted to be an effective gatekeeper of our personal privacy.

The 2011 Census was the most invasive in history, asking questions about a person’s proficiency in English, their health, employment status and the identities of their overnight guests.  The government had no need – and no right – to collect this information.

This Census should never have gone ahead.

Indeed, shortly after the general election, Francis Maude, the Minister with responsibility for the Census, described the way the study is conducted as “expensive and inaccurate” and announced his intention to find other ways to obtain the information.  Sadly, he felt the 2011 Census was already too far advanced to scrap it. 

Starting today, the government must establish an independent enquiry tasked with determining how future data-gathering exercises of this sort can be conducted nationally.   

A large amount of the information contained in the Census is already held by public the authorities on databases such as the electoral register, school records, tax returns and GP information.  Rather than sending us a thirty-two page form which ask intrusive questions about our religious beliefs, central heating system and employer, the government should focus on analysing the data they already have. 

While not perfect, such an approach would help avoid any further incursions into personal privacy.

Daniel Hamilton is Director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.  You can follow him on Twitter: @DanielRHamilton

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