back to article US spooks won't get UK census access

US spooks will not get access to English and Welsh census information even if the census contract is won by US defence firm Lockheed Martin. Treasury Minister Angela Eagle told the Treasury Select Committee yesterday that the data would be kept safe. There are two companies still bidding for the £450m contract - T-Systems, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    OMG, Why would you let the US do your census?

    I am an American, and even I think that is creepy.

  2. Mark
    Dead Vulture

    Well, we didn't mean to

    So we're starting an investigation into the procedures to see where they fell down and to ensure we don't do this again.

    Until next time.


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    [insert title here]

    "She was asked if there was a clause in the contract to prevent information being sent out of the UK at all. She said she would reply by confidential letter."

    So that'll be a 'no' then ...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Too true ...

    "...It seems likely that the US secret service has lots of better ways to get more up-to-date information than that provided by the census ..."

    Like get a job in a sorting office in the Northeast ...

    Mines the leather jacket with the Saxon patch

  5. Spider

    Spot the lying liars lying to save their lying arses.

    So UK work by US companies has no need to move data to the US? Bullshit...

    Lying liars the lot of them. "..there is no risk that that would happen..", what? even when the men in dark glasses threaten to stop funding all their jumbo based cosmic death ray armageddon bomb war toys? my arse. they'll give it up faster than an Essex girl with a Bacardi breezer...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You've got to be kidding!

    How naive of a government famous for loosing the details of millions of people on cd's to think that cencus information wouldn't accidently, or deliberatly, find its way to the states!

  7. Nick Palmer
    Black Helicopters

    Comes to something when...'d rather be invaded by the Germans... There's no way that the data WON'T find its way to the US and as soon as it does, the yanks'll be through it faster than a bowl of prunes through a short grandmother.

  8. Luther Blissett

    Angela Eagle?

    > "People in the UK are suspicious of anyone that tries to make lists."

    False of course (and suspiciously ageist and philistine). So ministerial understanding of IT equates databases with lists? No wonder govt IT expenditure is such a mammoth size trough and disaster area.

    Seems that Buggins Turn is alive and well in Westminster.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A separate address register?

    "The issue of ID cards hasn't exactly been non-controversial - and it wouldn't be non-controversial to people to have a national address register, I'll be bound."

    You're talking about the same ID card where you'll have to inform guvmint of a change of address or face a £2,000 fine, right? Surely they won't need an address register - looks like another misconception about the scale of the quantity of information going on the database.

  10. Nomen Publicus
    Black Helicopters

    An idea so bad it is not even wrong?

    So exactly why does the government think this is good idea? I suspect it's more a matter of the government being unable to see how it is a bad idea.

  11. Hate2Register

    @Angela Eagle (minister in charge)

    Don't be a fool. We should be "safeguarding" the world's data, not throwing it to the winds. Only let the Americans lose our data if they let us lose theirs.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't the Patriot Nullify the Safe Harbour?

    Well if the Patriot act gives USA powers to go look at data held by it's corporations in the USA without protections, then doesn't that nullify the safe harbour provision in the EU Data protection act.

    You can't sign a contract with a USA company if they might ship the data to the USA because they can't offer the Safe Harbour provisions.

    Article 17

    Security of Processing

    Member states shall provide that the controller must implement appropriate measures to protect personal data against...unauthorized disclosure or access.

    So they can't let Lockheed process it, because Lockheed can't offer the safe haven, and since the member states are *compelled* to ensure this, you could go after them to block this. So the US companies automatically rules themselves out of any contracts that require processing of UK personal data.

  13. Ryan Barrett

    Maybe it would be better...

    ..because American identity scammers will be less interested in the disks crammed full of our personal information than the UK-based scammers.

  14. Andy
    Black Helicopters

    American law

    Under American law it is legal to kidnap British citizens, torture them, and hold them without trial. They've told you that already - why aren't you listening?

    But I believe that if the Americans wanted personal information on British citizens all they would need to do is hang out at a courier company for a little bit.

  15. Arif Rashid

    Of course there is no evidence...

    of US companies giving info to the security services because they are also bound by various gagging orders or just the need to keep it quiet!

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Lockheed, Census? Go figure?

    I am disgusted that the Census may be processed by an American defence company that has close links with the CIA and so on. When news of data leak comes about 10 years after it occurred when people notice that the CIA seems to know an awful lot about individuals, the government will just say oops.

    This is disgusting and should be mentioned on the front pages of every newspaper and there should be Parliamentary committee meetings condemning this decision and denying them to have access. The Americans already are trying to get details of every citizen who goes on an aeroplane and as if that is not enough, they want our details. This is a backdoor for the American spies conveniently handed on a plate by the incompetent UK government and the civil servants. Oh don't say David Cameron wouldn't do a thing, he would be begging them to do it as he is just like Tony Blair.

    This has really made me really furious!

  17. Gerrit Tijhof

    and while you're at it

    can we have your firstborn as well? Ah, cheers.

    Yes, that tinfoil hat please, ta.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I used to be a Jedi but I am now a completely reformed Pastafarian.

    Gawd blimey the maker makes the BEST pasta sauce.

  19. Spleen

    What does it matter?

    If the CIA wants our census data, all they have to do is ask. When was the last time our Glorious Government said "No" to the US? Probably just before the beginning of the War of Independence. Maybe after Suez, Korea, Iraq, etc, it might be a novel idea to give it a try.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Rebel Scum

    Well at least the Good Ole' boys in the Whitehouse won't find out who amongst us regard our primary religion as Jedi, and hence must be classed as terrorists.

    "These are not the WMD's you're looking for"

  21. Jonathan McColl
    Black Helicopters

    Torn between two lovers ...

    Feeling like a fool.

    Which should I get upset about first? The American Department of Homeland security+Patriot Act+CIA stealing the UK (51st State) census data that tells them where I am and what my children are called and what my job is; or maybe HMG that will keep my medical problems and NI numbers and iris scans all in one file and post it on a CD somewhere so that my identity may be stolen more easily than by rooting through the shredded receipts in my compost bin?

    Maybe I should just refuse to fill in the next census. Ah, but that carries a major fine. Right, when form-filling I no longer do anything in an industry that might be 'sensitive' one day to our American masters, I mean brothers: I will become an Agricultural Labo(u)rer like my ancestors in all the earlier censuses. But GCHQ will still be recording my phone calls. If you aren't paranoid, you haven't fully grasped the situation.

  22. Chris Cooke
    Thumb Down

    short memories

    The UK government says it'll keep data safe, and people *believe* it?

  23. Barry Rueger

    Blame Canada!

    Yes, we were the first to outsource our census to the Americans! How proud we were to let them count our households and sexual preferences, a task so obviously beyond the capacity of any Canadian firm!! And yes, we absolutely positively believe that there is no way that a major defence contractor like Lockheed Martin would ever let the US government even PEEK at all of our personal data.

    I mean really, if we trust the Americans to ship our own citizens to Syria for torture, why on earth wouldn't we trust them with census data?

  24. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @ Nomen Publicus

    Ooooh I'm sure the government saw that giving data to Lockheed was a good idea about thirty seconds after Lockheed's lobbyists mentioned they might need a some more non-executive directors in a few years time. It's an ancient political maneouvre known as 'doing a Hewitt'.

  25. Adair Silver badge

    When the whore pays the punter...

    This is what happens when everything has a price and everything is for sale. The advice used to be: 'Lie back and think of England'. It's a pretty pass when the people elected to serve us have become our pimps. So, is that it then; just lie back? Or, 'To be, or not to be--that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles

    and by opposing end them'. Thanks Bill, you lived in rougher times, but at least people stood up for what they believed, and died for it too. We wouldn't have as much as we still do without all your blood and guts in the face of mendacity, greed, cowardice, and fear.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    So is that...

    where that DVLA information went? Was it the CIA that intercepted that?

    Oh wait, I seem to have been confused by the reporting in the British press about how CDs are lost means how data is lost...

    /me wants the long black leather 1930s style one, as it goes so well with the Type81 Volkswagen

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I dont get it?

    I know most of our outsourcers end up delivering late and over budget, but surely there must be a british company capable of performing this service?

    Paris, because it was probably her idea.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    I think its great that American companies will do your census

    We can then add all of our undesirables to YOUR census rolls, and then use that as proof of British citizenship & deport them to Britain.

    Kind of the reverse of what Britain did to us, and later did to Australia.

  29. Jeff Deacon

    Given a promise like that ...

    it seems almost certain that the deal to give them the data has already been done.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Doesn't the Patriot Nullify the Safe Harbour?


    Sorry. For a moment there I thought you seriously believed UK gov cares about (or feels bound by) the data protection act. Good joke...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Govt loses 65m people's details...

    I don't know where to begin with why this is such a bad idea.

    Why does such information need to be (a) outsourced and (b) processed by a defense company of morally dubious integrity? (Is there any other sort?)

    All in all, wouldn't it just be easier for all concerned if we handed over the keys and accepted that we can't look after ourselves, *sniff*, and let uncle sam do all the hard stuff for us?

    Thank the spaghetti monster i'm emigrating (NO jobs in UK in my field, unless i wish to sell my soul/go to US). But... will i be classed as an enemy combatant if i return home with the knowledge accumulated during my sojourn or welcomed with open arms as a technically competent sort?

  32. Oldfogey

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Census Forms

    As usual, the correct response to intrusive requests for information for which there is no justification is to lie, or, better still, to tell the truth in a misleading way.

    Thus, whenthe checkout girl asks for mys Poscode (Zipcode) and hous number when I buy a stack of blank DVD's, I just say SW1A 2AA, No 10.

    Any online company that asks for a phone nhumber that they don't need, gets their own number entered.

    When the census asks my race, I enter "Mixed, Other" - after all, isn't everyone of us when you get down to it?

    "Other" is always the one to select from a drop-down list.

    Have several store loyalty cards from your main store, in different names and slightly different varients of your address that the postie will know are all you.

    I love messing with their systems - I just wish more people would do it.

    No, not that ID - the one in the other pocket.

  33. Steve Roper

    @ Jonathan McColl

    Sorry mate, the UK is not the 51st state of the US - you guys are the 52nd state. We in Australia claim the status of 51st state because our government crawled up America's arse long before yours did! ;)

  34. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the data would be kept safe"

    Of course it would !

    On the unencrypted, lame-password-protected hard disk of a laptop lying in the back of an open car parked in front of a train station for the night.

    Safe and secure. Move along people, nothing to see here.

  35. John F***ing Stepp

    I worked there once.

    Unless things have changed drastically since I worked for the senseless bureau, they were really really selfish about their data.

    A couple of FBI agents went up on charges back in the day.

    Of course the GD Neocons could have FD things to the point where putting something in the mashed potatoes seemed like the only end to an old joke.

    I don't know, some parts of the US were once honest.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wow, I must have hibernated, April the first seems to have come around very quickly. Must be my age.

    So the Gov is to take a national census in a few years time, but instead of doing it themselves, they've shortlisted the Germans and the Yanks to do it for them ? Oh come on: no one is that daft. You'll be telling me the WTO insisted next.

  37. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @Steve Roper @Jonathon McColl

    Hard though it may be for an Aussie to accept second place, I think the Canadians have an even better claim.

    On the subject of censuses, I expect genealogists are delighted by the news, since usually they have to wait 100 years to our mits on a census. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm not on the 1991 census and it is one of my ambitions to live long enough to find out. These exciting new developments in government IT procurement bring me *much* closer to achieving that.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Doesn't the Patriot Nullify the Safe Harbour?

    > You can't sign a contract with a USA company if they might ship the data to the USA because they can't offer the Safe Harbour provisions.

    Bollocks! Personal data can be exported outside the EU to places that don't have adequate data protection legislation. This can be done by hard-wiring some legal text (the EU model clauses) into the contract with the overseas organisation. Another approach is to have the foreign entity adopt a data protection regime that meets EU standards. For example a US company can sign up for the US Department of Commerce's Safe Harbor provisions which are EU-approved. The DoC even has a list of the US companies that have signed up to Safe Harbor on their web site.

    > Article 17 Security of Processing

    > Member states shall provide that the controller must implement appropriate measures to protect personal data against...unauthorized disclosure or access.

    > So they can't let Lockheed process it, because Lockheed can't offer the safe haven, and since the member states are *compelled* to ensure this, you could go after them to block this. So the US companies automatically rules themselves out of any contracts that require processing of UK personal data.

    This is rubbish. First off, it is possible to legally export personal data to a US company for processing in the USA. Or to any country outside the EU that has little or no data protection safeguards. It happens all the time. [Just think about how much of your personal data is held at Indian call centres.] Next, the legislation you quote talks of "unauthorised disclosure". So you can be sure that if the Feds turn up at Lockheed Martin or whereever, waving the Patriot Act and claiming "national security", handing over the data they want will be an authorised disclosure.

  39. Silas

    Worrying, obviously

    Especially so, given that all it would take is for one Lockheed Martin employee to take some "test data" back to the US on his/her laptop and then have the US Customs rip all the data off of it.

    Which they do seem remarkably keen to do to *any* electronic device that carries data. Phones, mp3 players, and of course, laptops.

    Is it just me, or has this Government (and the opposition parties, come to that) gone quite mad?

  40. Anonymous Coward

    of course the data will be safe....

    It won't fit on just 2 cd's

  41. alain williams Silver badge

    Safe Harbour ?

    Lockheed might sign all sorts of contracts with the UK govt, but once the data is in the USA and a spook comes visiting - how long do you think before the CIA has a copy of the entire database ?

    Look at what the banking people at SWIFT did ?

    In truth, I suspect that the CIA will get a copy of the census no matter who does it. The only way out is to not complete a census form - be on holiday that week.

  42. Jonathan McColl
    Black Helicopters

    Another use for the ID

    Another bit just shook itself at me: the 2011 census may be the last and the Government had planned the ID register would replace it. I don't remember that one in the list of earlier reasons, but there were a lot like entitlement to benefits or instant removal of terrorists. The National Register being kept up to date in real time would be cool, especially if it could be tied in with road-pricing cameras. We won't need to go to report in to the police stations when we want a pass to travel. I feel safer already.

    If only I hadn't used my real name in this forum.

  43. 3x2

    You can see the headlines already

    "Treasury Minister Angela Eagle told the Treasury Select Committee yesterday that the data would be kept safe."

  44. Steve Wallis

    you can't trust 'em!

    What an amazingly dumb idea! You can't trust the septix not to screw it up somewhere! But this outsourcing is already happening. I recently applied for a copy of my birth certificate and it duly arrived from a company in FRANCE, for God's sake! AND,in a window envelope with the words "birth certificate" clearly visible from the outside. I almost believe they WANT our details to fall into the wrong hands in order to justify ever more draconian restrictions on personal freedom!!!!!!

  45. Trotsky

    Facebook anyone?


  46. Paul Banacks

    Shoddy advice

    "Eagle told MPs there was no evidence the Patriot Act has been used against non-US based companies. Eagle said: "We've received legal advice that there is no risk that that would happen." UK firms are expected to carry out the actual census."

    What kind of advice is that? Even a molecule of common sense can see that "no risk" is nonsense. All a US official has to do is phone up his mate and ask them to send it in the post on a couple of CD-R's in exchange for a couple of grand and secrecy. How naive are these advisers?

    And why does everything IT related need an expensive contract involving foreign companies? There's nothing particularly difficult about databases! You could easily give the census project to undergraduate university departments as a competition and pick out the best solution and use it for a 10/th of the cost..

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