back to article Census threatens spies' cover

The first casualty of next month’s 2011 census could be the secret identities of Britain’s top spies – not to mention the location of senior police officers, judges and intelligence eavesdroppers as well. This follows a release from the Official of National Statistics (ONS) last week, reminding all UK employees that they will …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you have nothing to hide

    you have nothing to fear....

    A.C. for the obvious reason, Moneypenny.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      17 This question is intentionally left blank go to 18

      Whoever wrote this must have been paid per question.

      See icon.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        It's for the sheep[censored]...

        That question is present in the version for Wales, and asks whether anyone in your household speaks Welsh.

        It's left blank in the English version to keep the numbering consistent.

        1. Just Thinking

          Why leave it out?

          It doesn't seem any more pointless a question to ask in England than in Wales. There isn't exactly a wall between the two countries.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The Scots got a wall

            but the Welsh weren't worth that - they just got a ditch.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really not a problem

    The intelligence services have no problem obfuscating wage slips, tax documents, bank payments and any other details for staff.

    Things like posts codes and false company details are already in place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Logic and fact

      Don't go down well round here when a rant at the govenment can be had.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I thought the census was to help the govenment plan, not businesses. Shoulden't they be paying for there own data?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Which postcode do I use

    This is going to pose a problem for me - which postcode do I use:

    - the post code of my company's head office, or

    - the post code of my official place or work (= home), or

    - the post code of the office (of another company) that I'm currently contraced to work at?

  5. Zimmer

    Universal Exports

    So, with the revelation of a postcode we may find out where the real offices of UE are situated... :)

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Just a couple of points...

    The ONS website clearly states that the information collected will not be shared with any other Government departments, but does not clearly state that this information will not be transferred or sold to 3rd or commercial parties.

    Within the survey itself it also makes reference to protection of "personal" information. Does this mean that there is information collected by the census that is considered "impersonal" and can there for be flogged for a profit also?

  7. jake Silver badge

    What a non-story.

    Any .gov backed person with the need has a rock-solid back-story. It must be true, I saw it on TV!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ If you have nothing to hide

    > you have nothing to fear....

    I don't expect you to fear Mr Bond .... I expect you to die!

    1. Wommit

      It's talk

      I don't expect you to _TALK_ Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

      Auric Goldfinger.

      1. Regis Terme


        (I wish I could add a title)

  9. Dogbyte

    Universal Exports

    Isn't that who James Bond worked for?

    I hardly think people will list: Employer: MI6, Occupation:Spy.

  10. mordac
    Big Brother


    If it's that much of a problem can you return a blank form and £1000 in cash?

  11. Paolo Marini
    IT Angle


    somewhere between Bruxelles and Strasbourg... let me see the map, yes here: Maastricht :-)

  12. Ian K

    So...has something changed?

    These censuses have been held since 1801, so I'm guessing this year's won't be the very first where this sort of issue's come up.

    1. Old Tom

      They ask for much more information nowadays

      The old censuses just collected Name, Relation to head of household, Marital status, Sex, Age, Occupation, Place of Birth, and whether you're one of Deaf-and-Dumb/Blind/Imbecile or Idiot/Lunatic.

      1. Alan Firminger

        Not quite correct

        They used to ask if we had a bath in the house. Nobody complained.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Nobody complained."

          Except the 1 million people that refused to complete the last one of course.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @Old Tom

      "... whether you're one of Deaf-and-Dumb/Blind/Imbecile or Idiot/Lunatic."

      I worked for the US Census in Texas last year. They didn't ask. Draw your own conclusions.

  13. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    So the people who most want to spy, also don't want to be spied on

    WTF?! These hypocritical bastards don't want to live under the rules they set for all of us. So one rule for them and another for the rest of us. The irony is, many of these hypocritical Narcissists are the very people society needs to be watching closest of all.

    They want Big Brother, so its time for them to suffer even just a small fraction of what they do to others. Maybe it'll make them think of what they do to others! ... we can only hope ... oh yes, a lesson in empathy for them ... but oh no, of course not, so many of these hypocritical bastards lack empathy for other people and they can't believe they could ever be in the wrong in anything they do to others and put others through. They have already collectively moved us nearer to a Police State than at any point in human history. But no, they don't want to suffer even a small fraction of what they do to everyone else. Typical. :(

  14. Snake Plissken
    Black Helicopters

    We are all in this together

    Except *your* information is important for us to know but *ours* should be protected.

  15. alain williams Silver badge

    Q18: What is your main language?

    Do you think that I could enter 'perl' ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward



    2. perlcat


      I think it is a very good idea.

      Much better than Klingon.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ethnic group"

    What's the recommended way to answer question 16 if I think that "ethnic group" is a stupid concept and not one I want to have any truck with, but I don't want to pay £1000?

    "Any other ethnic group, write in" ... "human"?

    Every other form I have to fill in with "ethnic group" on it has "refuse to answer" as one of the options.

    Also, why haven't they asked people what languages they know? That would be much more interesting than some of the crap they've asked.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Ethnic Origin

      Correct Answer: "African (Aren't we all?)"

  17. Tony Green

    The spooks will get all the info anyway

    Since the census forms are going to be processed by Lockheed Martin, you can be damn sure every bit of information that might be useful to Uncle Sam will be in the hands of the CIA before the first summary appears in pubic.

  18. JaitcH

    Credit bureaus have all the info

    Anyone carrying a credit card or having a bank account (in the UK) is automatically checked against the credit bureau records. Didn't do my bank much good as the CB said I didn't exist and that the address I used wasn't in their database either.

    Given that much CB access is via computer and all sorts of people are permitted access confidentiality has as much meaning a Secret does to the U.S. State Department.

    Never completed a census in any of the countries I've resided in and businesses didn't seem to mind too much, either.

    Some census questions are really intrusive and one has to wonder just what it matters how many toilets, wash basins or bathtubs one has in a property. And whose business is it which God or idol you pay homage to?

    But the up side is that employment figures improve for that point in time and the unemployment rolls drop, a little.

    A friend of mine traces family trees and she does dig up some interesting poop from past (100+ year old) census information but the newer ones are less helpful. The churchyard moving and amalgamation activity also screws things up for her.

    Ethnic minorities seem to be particularly reluctant to complete these questionnaires, especially when some family members may be less than legal. Promising Plod won't see the info does seem to carry much weight with them, either.

  19. John Savard Silver badge

    Universal Export

    I don't know. I figure that if I'm Commander James Bond (Ret.), working for Universal Export, it's not exactly particularly likely that some dedicated individual in the census firm is going to double-check the accuracy of my form to such an extent as to determine that I'm really working for M. I. 6, and didn't fill it in accurately. Women hiding from abusive partners, on the other hand, have fewer options, but I would think that whatever the classification, confidential census information is not easy to get one's hands on.

  20. John Munyard

    Mess with thier heads

    Reading the form, I'm of the view that the information being requested isn't actually far off the level of intrusiveness we saw when Labour were trying to press the ID Card into our unwilling palms a few years ago. In fact if you added the requirement for biometric it would be very close. The point quoted in the article that all the information requested about workplace and your employers being used to help businesses plan is such an indefensible crock of crap - but I bet the HMRC will find it useful.

    It's hard to to come to the view that a lot of this information is nothing to do with what a census actually needs, and is a wider data trawl. In this decade, more than in 2001, the people have the opportunity to network virally and register a protest.

    In 2001, thousands of people all declared themselves to be Jedi in objection to the religious questioning. Perhaps for 2011 we should all hand in the postcode of a single pub in rural Somerset and declare (in our millions) that we were all in the same pub.

    1. Just Thinking

      Question 7

      Surely everyone lives in a temporary structure?

  21. EddieD

    Universal Export

    was replaced by "Transworld Consortium" sometime in the year between On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Man With the Golden Gun...

    Mine's the one with the Walther PPK in the pocket (although I still miss the skeleton Beretta...)

  22. alain williams Silver badge

    Wot - no Jedi option for religion ?

    In spite of it being the 3rd most popular in the last census!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      For not adding Jedi!!

      I will not answer any questions that I feel are intrusive like my phone number and my employer info.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    And how do they tell ...

    ... if you give false but consistent information? Do they cross-reference individuals against HMRC records (for employees and employers)?

    Anon for obvious reasons...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also make cluster bombs

    Let's all remember that the census is being carried out by weapons mega-corp Lockheed Martin, a company who make every kind of killing technology you can imagine, including things like cluster bombs that indiscriminately kill innocent civilians for years after they are deployed.

    There is no way that I would buy a vacuum cleaner from a company who also made weapons, and I'll be applying the same principle here. If you also think that the world would be a better place without the likes of Lockheed Martin, do not cooperate with the census.

    1. Psyx

      That'll be...

      You don't buy Daewoo, then?

  25. Dances With Sheep
    Black Helicopters

    Holy shit this is intrusive

    Christ, did they want to know your employers name and address at the last census?

    Anyway, on a lighter note for Q20, Id suggest such religions as Fellater or Felcher (Jedi is SO last decade). And Q35 "What did you do at your job" is just crying our to be answered with "drinking" , "lighting farts" or perhaps "not much".

    Lets face it..... in 100 years time, some kid will be reading through this lot as part of a school genealogy project. At least give them a giggle.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    New spy skills needed to aviod census trap - Lie or create false cover

    One would hope that MI5 and MI6 officers would be able to do something off the wall, like LIE.

    Find out if the census is going to check the answer you give for employer, if not, make up something, if they are, get together with colleagues, set up a dummy company(s) and use those.

    The Met senior officers shouldn't have a problem with this, they know all about lying anyway.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A cunning approach...


    I know lying isn't natural to intelligence officers, nor is lateral thinking.

    But I'm sure that they will overcome their consciences somehow.

    1. Captain DaFt

      No, no! Never lie!

      When a simple misspelling and/or obfuscation will do!

      I'd proudly inform them that I'm "Captain Dart", and among my hobbies is "Viewing The Register".

  28. JMB

    If you have nothing to hide #

    Will it not just end with a lot of people working at some anonymous government postcode and only indicate that they worked for the Civil Service in some way.

    Or they could enter that they "work from home".

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How many are going to put down Jedi this time round

    Or are we going for something better this time

    1. Tony Green

      To annoy the churches...

      ... the more of us who put no religion the better.

      1. John 62

        no religion?

        that'll just make the churches redouble their efforts. in fact, other countries are sending missionaries to the UK because it's so godless and heathen.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    May I suggest

    May I suggest for ethnicity we put 'Eurasian'? Or does that label us as a 'terrist' since I doubt they will get the referrence? Or how about for religion we put Orwellian?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Storm in a teacup

    Like everyone else employed by HM Government in one of the security services, I only ever gave my occupation as "Civil Servant". That is sufficient for the census form. HM Government ensure that those who work in security related occupations have a postal address that they can use as their employer's address which does not identify the service that they work for. This whole article is making a mountain out of a molehill (or is a storm in a teacup!).

  32. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    @JaitcH - it's not just illegals.

    A previous european government found the ethnicity entries very useful when planning their railway timetables. Ironically they also got a US company to do the data processing

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother


      therefore we must guess which bunch of minority thugs are likely to seize power in the near future, and give the census sufficient false information to ensure that we do not feature in their "forward planning"

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Obvious answer for spooklies

    I can't tell you. If I did, I would have to kill you.

    Should work for the Public School crowd.

  34. kennsmi

    stop ffs...I've been drinking again

    Please, none of this 'where's the Jedi answer?' etc.

    It's probably some sort of crime to encourage others not to comply with the bastards currently in charge...but let's just say, if you were to leave your census form next to the bin...and it was to accidentally fall in...and it happened to be that one day of the month when the sun and blue moon and men who get up far too early collude to say it might be bin day...well that's OK...really it is...

    You might be fined £1000. Highly unlikely - heading towards lottery jackpot odds. Personally, I believe in the 'frustrate' tactic, and if enough people stand firm the bastards are fucked...for now at least.

    There's a reason this is going to be the last census. From The Telegraph:-

    "Mr Maude said the Census was “out of date almost before it has been done” and was looking at ways to count the population more frequently — perhaps every five years — using databases held by credit checking firms, Royal Mail, councils and Government.

    “This would give you more accurate, much more timely data in real time. There is a load of data out there in loads of different places,” he said."

    They won't stop until we burn them. That is all.

  35. Tempest

    I have no postal code where I live ....

    therefore I am unable to get past the first section.

    Incomplete census forms are unacceptable ergo I don't mail mine.

  36. '); DROP TABLE comments; --

    Watch the gender bias there

    "Women hiding from abusive partners" - one of my friends had to change *his* name and move to my city to get away from his abusive ex-wife, who has threatened on several occasions to stab him if she sees him again. It's not only women who have to hide from abusive exes. Please don't perpetuate feminist stereotypes by wording such statements gender-specifically.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I nearly had to change my name and move to avoid being stalked by an ex.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Agreed

        I am sorry to hear it. But it was an example, and not some political attempt to negate the problems of others.

  37. gafisher
    Big Brother

    Waste of Resources

    Google already has all this information and can show it on a map.

  38. ShaggyDoggy

    re: Q18: What is your main language

    In fact I could justifiably put "RPG ILE" since I spend more hours per day in that than anything else

  39. John Sturdy

    There's a legitimate way to avoid being counted

    Emigrate before the census.

    Return after it, if you can be bothered to.

  40. Bill P. Godfrey

    Ethnic group.

    I, like all humanity, descended from a family of African people. Which box should I tick?

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