back to article Ministry of Defence tells contractors not to answer certain UK census questions over security fears

The Ministry of Defence has ordered its contractors not to answer certain questions on the UK's once-in-a-decade census – despite threats of £1,000 fines being handed to people who don't complete the national survey. "It's a crime to ignore the census. You can be prosecuted if you don't complete the census," says GOV.UK's …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the old days

    You were supposed to put "Work of a confidential nature in the national interest" on say a visa application to visit the USSR, to "avoid arousing suspicion".

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Back in the old days

      Given the Cambridge spies of the time, maybe "which nation's interest?" would have been a helpful auxiliary question.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Back in the old days

        Person asking for directions in Whitehall.

        Which side is the foreign office on?

        "Ours, I think" says the passing civil servant

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Back in the old days

          Their own.

    3. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Back in the old days

      My (handwritten) passport from the 1970s has "Government Service" in the relevant field. It probably covered everyone from the nice lady at the Post Office who sold you a stamp to David Callan. I think my favourite classification at the time was "Gentleman", which meant access to sufficient wealth to not need "employment".

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    UK Law

    Wasn't there a law making it illegal to obtain personal information about a police/army/security-services person ?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: UK Law

      Maybe but I doubt those organisations' HR/Establishments offices are breaking the law.

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: UK Law

      refer them to the unit press officer.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: UK Law

        I can't tell you who I work for. Please contact the MMB press officer at "1 secret underground bunker, London"

        1. Andy Landy

          Re: UK Law

          Please contact the MMB

          the Ministry of Murder and Bombs?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: UK Law

            >Please contact the MMB

            >the Ministry of Murder and Bombs?

            Milk Marketing Board = the shadowy organization behind all conspiracy

            I mean how much marketing does milk need? It tastes of milk, you drink it !

            Or if you are sensible you leave it alone until it's been turned into cheese in the proper manner.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: I mean how much marketing does milk need?

              The Milk Marketing Board is there to compensate for what is emitted from other orifices.

              You will probably find that they do not employ anyone with the first name of Pat.

            2. marcellothearcane

              Blessed are the cheesemakers

              Obviously it's not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

              1. ABehrens

                Re: Blessed are the cheesemakers

                What a friend we have in Cheeses.

            3. Tascam Holiday
              Joke

              Re: UK Law

              > Milk Marketing Board = the shadowy organization behind all conspiracy

              Watch out watch out, there's a Humphrey (Appleby) about!

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                Re: UK Law

                In a comedy spy thriller starring Dirk Bogarde and Richard Morley. Morley is the 'spymaster' figure. After recruiting Bogarde's character he receives a call from Bogarde on his direct line. Asked how he got it, Bogarde says "I noticed it when we met in your office". The line is duly transferred to the Milk Marketing Board.

            4. TRT Silver badge

              Re: UK Law

              There are so many marketing boards now... potatoes, milk, meat, wool, eggs, railways, tripe... we seem to be very good at it. Perhaps we need to market our marketing boards... there should be an organisation for that.

              1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: potatoes, milk, meat, wool, eggs, railways, tripe...

                There isn't one for MDF that I'm aware of.

                The Potato Marketing Board (at least that's what it said on the door) in Cowley used to be Intel's HQ many year's ago. I used to be a member of the Amateur Computer Club and they occasionally held meetings there.

            5. EvilDrSmith
              Black Helicopters

              Re: UK Law

              >Milk Marketing Board = the shadowy organization behind all conspiracy

              Exactly! They only want you to think it was disbanded about 20 years ago. Really, it's still there, and I can now reveal that..... What? Oh hang on, I think there's someone at the door. Just a.[,d csdc;jdnkm............

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: UK Law

          Called my dad on his mobile and his PA answered which was odd. He was apparently in a meeting with a Government bloke and his phone had to stay outside. When he got home and I asked he said he and a few others at work had had a visit from someone from the Government. I queried why somebody from HMG had visited them. He said wasn't able to disclose anything from the meeting to anyone else, sorry about that.

          I obviously knew what the firm did, I knew from him and the press about a major building project they were involved with. Putting 2 & 2 together I got four and asked if it was related to X. He didn't say anything but he was lucky he never played poker as you could see the shock in his eyes. After the colour had returned to his face I pointed out how I knew what I'd just told him. I showed him a couple of sites on the internet with info.

          He told me - although unconvincingly - that what I'd just said was pure speculation. He couldn't talk to me about anything (i.e. confirm or deny) to do with it. Given I might breach the Official Secrets Act I'm not going to say anything more about it. It was amusing that he (and other senior people) had to be read into something that I already knew about. He did tell me years later that he was told he'd been vetted & cleared. If he hadn't he wouldn't have been allowed into the meeting.

        3. TRT Silver badge

          Re: UK Law

          Universal Exports.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If working as a contractor I'd have thought the correct answers of the contracting company's name and the individual's job title within the company ought to be satisfactory for the MoD. BAE/Senior Engineer or Capita/Hell Desk Slave don't give too much away.

    1. wallaby

      When I worked at BAe one of the guys there put "Aeronautical pneumatic extraction engineer" as his title, he was the guy who vacuumed up all the swarf the rest of us were making whilst drilling.

      1. Dave White
        Happy

        It isn't often that swarf finds a place in daily conversation. Thank you for some fond memories, sir. Have an upvote.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "BAE/Senior Engineer or Capita/Hell Desk Slave don't give too much away"

      Employer: Government

      Job Duties: Clerk, Data analysis, EE, ME, HMFIC

      It would be silly to think that somebody is going to write down "Satellite image interpretation, MI6" or "Nuclear bomb engineer". It would be better if the MoD just instructed people to be very general in answering the questions which is all the government really needs to be getting on with the census. Somehow I doubt that it's of importance to know that a delivery driver has a milk float run or works at the local take-away. Either one might get binned as "Transportation, Goods".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last time I refused to answer a few questions as I thought them an unwarranted invasion of privacy. I'm pleased to see we're getting some official guidance on how to do that this time.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      A census taker once tried to test me.

      I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Coat

        You did not show him the nice window view on the 42nd floor, where the window opens outward to accommodate nosy question-askers high flying abilities to squish the floor at basement level?

        How painfully civilized of you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Merely protecting the integrity of the concrete below..

    2. Tom Chiverton 1

      No one else upset "sex" is seemingly a binary choice ... ?

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
        Joke

        No one else upset "sex" is seemingly a binary choice ... ?

        Well, you're either getting it or you're not.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Sex is binary, you do it with "zero" or "more than zero" other people

          Gender is the one where you can make up whatever shit you want

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Before answering that question: What is the definition of 'people'

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          69 votes (Well, you're either getting it or you're not)

          I wanted to up-vote you but you were enjoying 69 at the time so it seemed too rude to do so.

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Have you actually completed the census? That part is quite clear, and the part about gender is also quite clear.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At work we had a diversity and inclusion survey last year, and literally the first and only question about gender had just M & F as possible options. Good start!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It used to be easier. At least the question "Sex" could simply be answered with "yes"..

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            "yes, please"..

            (We are English)

          2. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
            Joke

            Re:

            Or "N/A" as the case may be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          3. Danny Boyd Bronze badge

            "Yes, thank you", more precisely.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Good start!"

          A good start would be to not bother with a "diversity and inclusion" survey in the first place. I expect to be hired on my merits, not where my grandfather emigrated from.

        3. This Side Up
          FAIL

          Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed

          "only question about gender had just M & F as possible options. Good start!"

          And if you happen to be inter ...?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        [...] "sex" is seemingly a binary choice ... ?

        That binary assumption did surprise me. Over the last 50 years there has been enough research on chromosomes and epigenetics to show that a person's sex can be incorrectly determined from physical characteristics. There have been publicised cases where the wrong call was made at birth in assigning male/female as the sex.

        Intersex is a term for such phenotypes.

        There is even "bilateral gynandromorphic" - where the two halves of the body develop separately as male and female viz a testicle on one side - an ovary on the other. The human embryo cells roll together to make a tube. Hence various seams down the front of your body. The two edges can be affected differently by sex determining hormones before they join.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Intersex has nothing to do with this. Intersex people are still either one sex or the other, and they really don't want to be pulled into this argument.

      5. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        No, Tom. Complex life on Earth, whether plant or animal, is sexually dimorphic. In the animal kingdom, there are only two sexes - the one that follies the developmental path to produce sessile gametes (female), and the one that follows the developmental path to produce motile gametes (male). This applies to humans. There is

        value in knowing about the number of people who consider themselves trans, but that is an overlay on the male/female data.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          The downvotes show that there are people who are very confused about things. There are two sexes - without admitting that, then "trans" means nothing. No one can change biological sex, but they can change some of the physical and social aspects associated with them.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Boffin

            Lizards

            There is a species of lizard with Z and W 'sex' chromosomes. The inverted commas are because sex in many reptiles depends on the temperature of incubation of the eggs. Above a certain temperature ZZ lizard are female, below that temperature ZZ lizards are male and ZW lizards are female. It is therefore possible to have a population of all ZZ lizards half of which are male and the other half female.

            https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16331408/

            "The bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps (Agamidae: Reptilia) is an agamid lizard endemic to Australia.

            ...

            Here we used molecular cytogenetic and differential banding techniques to reveal sex chromosomes in this species. Comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), GTG- and C-banding identified a highly heterochromatic microchromosome specific to females, demonstrating female heterogamety (ZZ/ZW) in this species. "

            Isn't life wonderful?

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Lizards

              I didn't refer to chromosomes or other equivalent, because I know about the ZW sex determination in birds, etc. I was very specific - those that follow the developmental path to produce either motile or sessile gametes.

              Using intersex as an argument is flawed - it is a developmental disorder that says nothing about dimorphism.

              Regarding fungi - I don't really count them as complex organisms, perhaps wrongly.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Lizards

                In some cases of developmental disorders, sex can be nominated based on functional reproductive probability if that can be determined rather than external genitalia. Sometimes a person has to mature before that can be assessed. A fraction of those people will have no reproductive possibilities (natural). People with these abnormalities are way off of the curve and a census isn't improved by making the distinction. It might be relevant in medical and public health studies to determine if there is an environmental cause.

                People that choose a gender identification in their adult years that is different from their sex is a data set for mental health researchers. It's a bit too weird for a biological male to identify as a lesbian female. A coupling like that could produce offspring if the male didn't have surgery/take drugs. It's seems contrary to nature's normal way of having a species propagate. But hey, my background is engineering with some medical/biology, not headology.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          There are *usually* two distinct sexes, although as a post above suggests there is scope for rare exceptions, which we usually call intersex.

          You are correct that this is entirely distinct from gender identity though.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            And indeed as the OP drew as wide a net as possible with "Life on Earth", they sadly seem to be confused about what a marvellously diverse and surprising place this Living Planet is!

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Also a bit confused about what dimorphism is.

        3. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Pfft, dimorphic. Be thankful ONS aren't doing a census of fungi

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I seem to remember that due to time/budget or something constraints they as long as you answered a certain four questions for the 2011 census, you could get away with the rest being blank. Can't find it online though.

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        Vast vast majority of the website's questions didn't force a response so just clicked past them

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bootnote

    > It's frowned upon to boast about holding it because that marks you out as a person of interest to hostile foreign countries.

    Back when I had security clearance it was classified to the level of the classification that you held that classification. In fact the existence of a classification of level X was itself classified to level X, so logically you could never be aware of the existence of a security clearance unless you held that security clearance.

    Pointed this out when my next employer was looking for staff who had security clearance to work on a defence project. We decided on a "if I asked you if you held clearance level X would you be able to confirm that" ? question

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Bootnote

      but wouldn't that be breaking clearance by informing someone that said clearance existed?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Bootnote

        It's the same logic as "if I asked you if you had been served a national security letter - would you legally be able to deny it?"

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. General Purpose Bronze badge

            Re: Bootnote

            As judges have a nasty habit of seeing through clever logic, we had organisations including Apple publishing Warrant Canaries, stating at regular intervals that no such subpoenas had been received.

            Apple no longer state that.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Bootnote

              Is that because that action was deemed illegal or is it because they get such frequent NSLs that they never get the opportunity to deny it any more?

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. General Purpose Bronze badge

                Re: Bootnote

                I do suspect that sometimes issuing denials and sometimes not would eventually be ruled disclosure as being immodice sollers per dimidium.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Bootnote

          "It's the same logic as "if I asked you if you had been served a national security letter - would you legally be able to deny it?""

          Which all means that when you sign up for that manure, you damn yourself from the onset. If you say, you go to jail. If you don't say, you go to jail.

          Best not to get involved with governments bar voting people out of office.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Bootnote

        Do you know whether any of this entirely random collection of letters is a security clearance? And this? And this? ....

      3. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Bootnote

        Only if you asked just the one question.

        Would you be able to confirm any of the following security clearances:

        AWA - BRT - FSS - TSP - ERT.... have a reasonable list of acronyms and only one be valid.

        Anyone knowing of higher levels which you might have accidentally included would of course be aware of the lower level as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bootnote

      To which my answer would be no either way on principal.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Bootnote

        And exactly which principal would you be on when you answered?

    3. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
    4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Bootnote

      My answer would be:

      I don't know.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Any one used to dealing with historic census returns learns to treat the answers with a degree of caution. It's not unusual to find a couple in their 50s or 60s with daughters aged about 30 and 2. I also recall one family who lived on the canals who were always, it seems, born wherever it was they were moored at the time of the census. And the 1841 census has a 5 year old Queen Caroline.

    Responses on other official documentation can be equally misleading. I recently came across one man who declared himself as "Gentleman" on his marriage register but three years later was a gamekeeper.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      It's just a snapshot of the time. 100% accuracy is not really what they're going for. Hence the question about who is staying in your house as a visitor as of whatever the date of the census ends. That visitor can of course fill in their own census with their own address.

    2. Red Ted Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Census data

      It's quite a fun past time to find oddities in the census data.

      For the older censuses it is important to remember that up until the early 20th Century (so all the publicly available censuses) a significant fraction of the population couldn't read or write, so the the census was filled in for them by a census taker, who may not have written down exactly what they were told.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Census data

        My wife has a hobby of genealogy, and she's actually quite good at it. One of the things she has to cope with is different spellings of unusual (and some not so unusual) names, when one census taker had a different guess at how the name was spelt from the last or following census.

        Trying to track people who move from one place to another when their names may not have been recorded correctly can be a real problem.

        You also have people who switch their first names around at different times, give known names rather than their christened names, or deliberately want to disappear and try to give different information in different places. It's all a bit of a game, really, and one that a lot of amateur genealogists (and some so-called professionals) get wrong, and then post incorrect information onto Ancestory and FindMyPast, poisoning the record!

        My wife does not count a link until she can find at least two separate pieces of evidence linking people together.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Census data

          > give known names rather than their christened names.... give different information in different places

          My first company was sorting this out for N. Ireland - back in the time of the euphemisms.

          When people (or at least 50% of the people) used a dozen different spellings of a Gaelic name on any official form.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Census data

            My irish mate had a gaelic name. In the 70s he never used it on job applications or else he wouldnt get in the door. He was always known as John. He would tone down his irish accent to almost comedic levels in interviews.

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Census data

          I've heard quite a lot of genealogists complain about the "professional" genealogists from the US who when going through their client's USAian's UK genealogy always seem to somehow relate the family to royalty or the landed gentry somewhere. It makes a complete mess of whole family trees and requires so much double checking of the records.

          1. IGotOut Silver badge

            Re: Census data

            Let's face 99.999% of people in the US are of Irish decent on St. Patrick's day.

            The rest of the year they are either Irish or Scottish.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Census data

              [...] either Irish or Scottish.

              or European, African, Latino.....

              1. tel2016

                Re: Census data

                Or Native American

                1. John Robson Silver badge
                  Unhappy

                  Re: Census data

                  Not many of those left.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Census data

                    "Not many of those left."

                    5,220,579

                    Native American Total: 5,220,579 ~ 1.6% of the total U.S. population. Yeah, there should be more, but smallpox was nearly a slate-wiper.

            2. juice Silver badge

              Re: Census data

              > Let's face 99.999% of people in the US are of Irish decent on St. Patrick's day

              I can remember visiting the USA, and being introduced to a friend of a friend, who proudly waved a certificate at me which "proved" they were 1/16th Irish (or somesuch).

              They seemed completely oblivious to the fact that this same certificate indicated that they were also around 8/16th German. I didn't have the heart to ask why this didn't take precedence.

              Personally, I'm originally from Manchester, and have seem to have a fairly hefty dose of Teutonic/middle-European genes. Which does seem to make life easier when wandering the continent, though it does occasionally lead to people asking me questions in a language I don't recognise.

              (In one particular case, the owner of an "international" store up in Bradford actually followed me around the shop and tried to talk to me in three or four languages before giving up and falling back to English. I'd just gone in to see what wierd and wonderful beers they had...

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Census data

                "Let's face 99.999% of people in the US are of Irish decent on St. Patrick's day"

                Bollocks to that!. I'll not forsake my clan to avoid getting pinched. That said, I'll drink green beer all day if it's on offer, no problem.

          2. JetSetJim Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: Census data

            > UK genealogy always seem to somehow relate the family to royalty or the landed gentry somewhere

            Not too hard, Charlemagne FTW

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Census data

            "I've heard quite a lot of genealogists complain about the "professional" genealogists from the US who when going through their client's USAian's UK genealogy always seem to somehow relate the family to royalty"

            Psychics do the same thing with past life tales. They'd never get any business if they told people that their ancestors were pigherds or scullery maids. Men will be related to Genghis Kahn and women, Joan of Ark. Monarchy with living descendants is harder to get away with as there are too many records. A famous historical person with and ended known lineage can be hard to check up on.

            I've traced back to a couple of clans and I think both paths are rancid Yak butter. I need to do the work myself. I get the impression that companies that hit dead ends make stuff up so people don't dispute the credit card charges. They'd have to already have the data to hand over a lineage for thirty quid. It's a ton of work as I've found out. I really should have talked more with grandad when I was a lad.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Census data

          In the not too distant days before UK formal adoption processes - it was not unusual for people to give an excess offspring to people who needed a heir. That meant the sudden appearance of a child with a new name in one household - and a disappearance from the old household.

          Our family tree had at least one documented informal transfer like that.

          1. skswales

            Re: Census data

            (family) tree balancing

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Census data

            I've got one like that. A childless couple took in the husband's nephew. In a society of small farms and no welfare society except the parish poor relief or, later, the workhouse, a family depended on the next generation to take over the load. Sometimes it was a middle or younger son. The deal seems to have been that that son would be the one who inherited the farm; older son(s) would marry and be set up with their own farm. I've even seen a will which mentioned an indenture which seemed likely to have been a formal agreement on those lines. It can show up as a late marriage. That happened with my 5x great-grandfather's family where one son remained unmarried until the father died (and then married very soon after) although even younger sons had married. Sometimes it went wrong. Same 5x ggfather's only younger brother was clearly the intended as the successor but died a few months before 6x ggfather. The vicar's Latin inscription in the burial register showed that even he was upset by the turn of events.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Census data

              The family arrangement was often that the eldest son inherited the farm and produced the next generation. The youngest often had the choice of joining the armed forces or a religious order. Often the other sons were expected to keep the family business running - and to give the eldest's progeny a good start.

              It has been mooted that gay younger brothers were advantageous to a family line. Their own genes were propagated to some extent through ensuring the survival of their nephews and nieces.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Census data

          "and then post incorrect information onto Ancestory and FindMyPast, poisoning the record!"

          Any tree posted on any of such sites, but especially the old Mormon IGI should be treated with the deepest suspicion.

      2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Census data

        > oddities in the census data

        My favourite was one I found when browsing the returns for a parish in Cornwall for the 1861 census, taken on the 7th of April. At first I thought I had found an early instance of civil disobedience, because the form clearly had the words "Census Crapp" on it. Closer inspection, though, showed that the entry was the last one for the family of John and Emma Crapp: "Tom Census Crapp; Son; Born this day; Cornwall, Ladock". So Tom Crapp was never going to forget that he was born on Census Day!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Census data

          [...] was never going to forget that he was born on Census Day!

          Like Noel. In Sweden they had a set of fixed names - a designated one for each day of the year.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Census data

            So long as your middle name isn't "note spelling" ob PTerry

            1. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

              Re: Census data

              Or DROP TABLES; https://xkcd.com/327/

          2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Census data

            > Like Noel

            Only this week, I was alerted to a scammer calling himself Kwame Nkrumah. I'm old enough to remember the famous one, so I looked up the name, to find that Kwame is a name for people born on a Saturday. Kwame Nkrumah is a Saturday-born ninth child. TIL...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Census data

              In several languages the first-born boy is named either "son" or the number for "one". Many years ago it was a common English humorous expression to refer to "number one son" and "number two son". As it was often used by a Chinese detective character of that era - it suggests that it is possibly a way Chinese boys can be named?

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Census data

              An Israeli visitor introduced himself as "David" - with the rider that in the Hebrew script that was "TIT".

  7. gnasher729 Silver badge

    To be honest, the census people should keep all the information in your census secret, and the MoD shouldn't trust them to do that, so their advice is totally right. Now where does that leave us if we don't work for the MoD... Same. The census people should keep everything in your census secret, and you shouldn't trust them. As one politician said: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" with the reply "I thought the rule for the census was if you _have_ something to hide you have nothing to fear".

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Of course if the government were at all competent they would be trying to destroy trust in the census.

      The conservative chaps over here replaced the census with a "government statistical survey" which determined that there were no poor people living in any city or any rural areas and so social funding could be cut.

      1. 42656e4d203239

        >>if the government were at all competent they would be trying to destroy trust in the census.

        They are going one better - Abolishing it altogether. This may well be the last official Census ever taken. They think they can get the data by trawling through other data sources. Which of course leaves the data open to manipulation or plain ignoring.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Coat

          >They think they can get the data by trawling through other data sources

          I hear Facebook has an admin dashboard that looks helpful... Add that to Katie Price's petition and you're onto a winner

  8. John 110

    Without being too picky...

    The census only covers England and Wales (us uppity Scots don't have to answer your poxy questions until 2022), so it's not really a UK census is it?

    1. Just Enough

      Re: Without being too picky...

      And is also unlikely to cover those whose work is based at G84 8HL.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Without being too picky...

        Living abroad I'd forgotten about the census...... I have to wonder why they bother. Other governments are able to make just as much of a screw up of planning without a census so I'm not sure I can see the point.

        I remember reading that the Ministry for Transport had "moved on" from predict and provide for road planning, which always seemed to me to be a bit of an excuse for having failed to either correctly predict or provide.

        Wasn't it the Labour government (they're all as bad as one another) who closed schools despite knowing that in a few years there'd be higher numbers again?

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Without being too picky...

          There is a real discussion about whether this will be the last census in the UK. The alternative that has been mooted is to buy the data from the likes of Google and Facebook, and combine that with information that the government already holds, on the belief that all people will have to have at least some internet (or whatever follows the Internet) presence in 2031.

          I guess that this will depend on whether the cost of buying the data becomes less than the cost of running the census, and whether the intrusive snooping of these internet companies will generate accurate enough information. Don't know whether they will have to deviate from GDPR in order to do it, though.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Without being too picky...

            The advantage is that the census is broadly fair and honest.

            Would you trust the home office to provide data about the number of undocumented immigrants, needing social services / schools / hospitals in a given area - to the same government that would have to fund it ?

            1. Twanky

              Re: Without being too picky...

              Would you trust the home office to provide data about the number of undocumented immigrants, needing social services / schools / hospitals in a given area - to the same government that would have to fund it ?

              The simple answer is no.

              However, I also do not think that the Census can provide sensibly accurate information in this regard.

          2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: Without being too picky...

            Peter Gathercole: "The alternative that has been mooted is to buy the data from the likes of Google and Facebook, and combine that with information that the government already holds, on the belief that all people will have to have at least some internet (or whatever follows the Internet) presence in 2031."

            Well, I do not now have, and never have had a Facebook account, and the Gmail account in my name was set up by fraudsters who used it (amongst other fraudulent bank accounts ) to defraud certain financial institutions of some of my savings and pension plans*. So I'm to entirely sure the proposal above would be a particularly good idea.

            I know that there are homeless people with mobile phones, but there are some without. In years past there were dedicated Census recorders who went out finding people sleeping rough and helping them to complete the census forms. (Genuinely brave souls, I expect.). So there will always be a requirement for some direct contact, if a proper job is to be done.

            *They got about £80k, but as they only attacked the companies, I seem to have got it all back, eventually, although it was very stressful at the time (and still is a bit TBH). If you are missing some important post (Pension company statements, bank statements, other financial documents, remember to check with all your financial services providers that they have not seen any attempts to close your accounts, and to be aware of possible fraud. You can set up extra security on telephone banking too, but I digress... And in other financial news HMG has disbanded the dedicated Joint Fraud Taskforce, which coordinated the banks, police and financial regulators (I money article on Wednesday 17th March).

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Without being too picky... @Eclectic

              I was not supporting using data gleaned from internet companies. There are several members of my extended family who have very close to zero footprint on the Internet, only having very minimal interaction via me when no other option was available (for example, the planning application and objection process run by my local council that has no alternative paper system any more, which I think is a bit age discriminatory, and possibly against the law).

              But in ten years time, that could be very different.

              I actually think that the census is a good way of getting a different slant on the population data, and as my wife is a amateur genealogist who uses old census data on a regular basis, I think it should be maintained.

              But I don't make government policy, and you have to admit that running a census must cost quite a bit, even if you get 60% of it filled in by the people directly. I must track down where I read the story about it being the last census. I think it may have been a discussion piece on the BBC news website.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Without being too picky...

            I don't see that the government would be "buying" the data from FB, Google, et al. Rumors are they already have a feed.

        2. General Purpose Bronze badge

          Re: Without being too picky...

          We haven't had a Ministry of Transport for 50 years and the idea that "they're all as bad as one another" was palpable rubbish even when we did.

          1. John 110
            Mushroom

            Re: Without being too picky...

            Off Topic:"the idea that "they're all as bad as one another" was palpable rubbish"

            Do you seriously think that any of the useless shower that are likely to form a Westminster government in the event of an election are any better than any other!

            They're all a bunch of fucking politicians, more concerned with covering their own arses and filling their own pockets than governing the country!

            1. General Purpose Bronze badge

              Re: Without being too picky...

              If on your metrics, Cameron's government was no better and no worse than Blair's, and Thatcher no better or worse than Callaghan, it's time to reconsider your metrics.

              1. John 110

                Re: Without being too picky...

                Thatcher and Callaghan, ok they were obviously from different ends of the political spectrum, but Cameron and Blair were indistinguishable.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: Without being too picky...

                  >but Cameron and Blair were indistinguishable.

                  One killed more foreigners, one screwed more Brits

                  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                    Re: Without being too picky...

                    David Cameron has recently been trying to influence Rishi Sunak to support a now failed financial institution by sending text messages to his personal phone.

                    It seems the man who inherited £2million tax free from his father (courtesy of it being in an offshore account) and felt that Jimmy Carr's tax affairs were fair game for discussion in the House of Commons is still 'in touch' with the will of the people, perhaps.

                2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Without being too picky...

                  "Cameron and Blair were indistinguishable."

                  I remain convinced that the reason Cameron was selected was because he was the nearest thing to Blair that they had available.

        3. EBG

          Yes

          The "predict and provide is dead" line triggers me as well. AFAIK it's not just DoT - it's across the board in the public service delivery functions. And yes, it's a cop-out from an onus to deliver. Prediction and *perfect* provision is a red herring, and there is no excuse for abandoning " predict and do the most possible to provide".

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Yes

            It's classic MBA thinking: aim for the average, completely ignore standard deviation or maximum expected, and assume it will stay this way for ever - or at least, until I've moved to another job.

  9. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Holmes

    I was working for...

    a list X company at the last census (as I am now, different company though).

    I don't remember any such guidance then and it seems silly really. Putting my main day to day tasks as 'engineering' is hardly giving much away.

    The 'postcode only' guidance is particularly hilarious given the size of most locations (unless I put my home in there which might be viable as I am working from home the vast majority of the time anyway - depending on which maps are used my postcode will put you either 1/4 mile west or 1/2 mile east of my actual location).

    Paranoia; we've heard of it.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: I was working for...

      I think work location is a bit of a joke at the moment, anyway. My work location is in Hampshire, but I think I've spent less that 20 days there in the last year, and I live in South West England.

      Not sure what I should put down, actually, especially when the exact location is not supposed to be broadcast for similar reasons to the OP.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: I was working for...

        Ayup, I live and work in different countries. It makes many things kinda hard.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          Re: Colin Wilson 2 - Apple have got this right!

          My office is in a town, I work from home from another town, and my work is performed by remotely connecting to a computer on another continent to jump back to servers in other countries.

          What should I put down in the box?

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: What should I put down in the box?

            Incontinent.

    2. Mr Humbug

      Re: I was working for...

      If you put down 'engineering' and give your work postcode as RG7 4PR it might identify you as someone who knows something interesting, whereas contractor could be anything from cleaner to HR assistant.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I was working for...

        Suppose you worked for the UK's new space command and you put your work post code as "space" would that be a security leak?

        Space is rather big, even if not actually infinite, you could argue that you gave infinitesimally small amount of information

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: you put your work post code as "space"

          But you're not allowed to leave that field blank.

          You should use the correct postcode for space, which is CHR32.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: you put your work post code as "space"

            "You should use the correct postcode for space, which is CHR32."

            I wonder if they're hiring delivery drivers for the sorting office that serves CHR32?

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: I wonder if they're hiring delivery drivers for the sorting office that serves CHR32?

              Tip: If anyone running a website offers free next day delivery to anyone who has a UK postcode, there are some that will likely trip them up, if not careful. For example:-

              TDCU 1ZZ

              1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

                Re: I wonder if they're hiring delivery drivers for the sorting office that serves CHR32?

                Similarly STHL 1ZZ. Do all these far-flung places have 1ZZ for the inward code?

                1. fix

                  Re: I wonder if they're hiring delivery drivers for the sorting office that serves CHR32?

                  Looks like it:

                  Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha and Saint Helena all issue their own postage stamps, which provide a significant income. The three territories each have their own Royal Mail postal code:

                  Ascension Island: ASCN 1ZZ

                  Saint Helena: STHL 1ZZ

                  Tristan da Cunha: TDCU 1ZZ

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Helena,_Ascension_and_Tristan_da_Cunha

                2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                  Re: Do all these far-flung places have 1ZZ for the inward code?

                  Jersey doesn't, even though there are a lot of seamen residing there.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: you put your work post code as "space"

              "CHR32?"

              PS, yes I did get the SPACE joke there :-)

              1. stiine Silver badge

                Re: you put your work post code as "space"

                Thank you, because I didn't...

          2. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: you put your work post code as "space"

            Filled mine in today & was no need to add any postcode, address details of workplace, I just gave name & no location info, not a town, street etc.

      2. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: I was working for...

        "If you put down 'engineering' and give your work postcode as RG7 4PR"

        I popped it into Google, quite funny really as it appears the street view car accidently went into their car park and was swiftly spotted and given a talking to by security staff before being sent on their way. Can you imagine trying to drive into a place like that with a whopping great camera strapped on your roof?

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: I was working for...

          Well. they are probably awaiting a load of wool to knit all those new thingies Boris wants to put in his missiles, so they probably let the street view car in by mistake.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Important census-related questions for the commentariat

    Most of the census this year is online. We are all supposed to fill it in on Sunday.

    Question 1: How much of Sunday will the census website be unavailable "due to high volumes of traffic"?

    Question 2: If by some miracle the true answer to question 1 is "none", could the ONS share how they managed it?

    Question 3 (for advanced commenters only): Assuming the answer to question 1 is "most of it", how would you have done it instead?

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

      In answer to your question 3.

      Having become totally increasingly irritated and confused trying to navigate any government website I opted for a paper census form. I applied over a week ago and it has still not arrived so whether I will be able to fill it in on Sunday is a moot point.

      One way or the other it looks as if the powers that be have managed to stop a lot of people fulfilling their legal obligation and submit their return on time.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

        This morning it was working well. It clearly wasn't put together by the usual crowd. The only annoying thing was that with the longer pages trying to navigate down a list of radio buttons to the Save and Continue button by down arrows flipped the selection down to the next box.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: navigate down a list of radio buttons

          I found it odd that where it said pick from a suggested list, there was no suggested list. I didn't investigate, but maybe it didn't like NoScript.

          This afternoon it was silky smooth performance-wise.

        2. ButlerInstitute

          Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

          I did most of it on Saturday. No problems or delays. Submitted it on Sunday with again no problems.

          I have in the last year or so also done Inheritance Tax and Probate online - both of which were quite straightforward - as much as I thought they could be for potentially complex issues. (There was one problem where an invisible value might have been persisted after another value was changed)

          Given how bad some web-sites can be I was pleasantly surprised how straightforward these gov.uk sites were. Presumably gov.uk have decent budgets for this sort of work.....

          I'm not sure what people have been looking at to find the "usual crowd" badly implemented but these all seemed quite reasonable.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

      You don't have to complete it on Sunday. You may complete it any time after receiving it as long as the information that you provide will be the same as you expect it to be on Sunday. I completed mine last week... pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

        Yep filled mine in this afternoon whilst waiting for a system to deploy - took about 5 minutes.

        With the employment questions I just put down self employed (it contractor) working for my own limited company as a company director (it sounds better than everything myself).

        Regarding the postcode question where I am it identifies 1 of 10 houses on the same street but that is what you get for being urban....

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

        What would you do if Joseph and a somewhat pregnant Mary turn up on your doorstep over the weekend, with some story about there being no room in the Travelodge?

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

          Well, for starters I'd wonder who put my information into whatever holiday or private letting app they were using. People really should check things properly before just turning up.

          Also, as soon as Mary started to claim "immaculate conception" I'd suggest that it would be much better for her relationship with Joseph that either she slept around a bit, or the both of them really need to go to a sex therapist or use working contraceptive if they are unaware how babies happen. Kids these days.... just why aren't the schools and parents teaching sex education? It's not like my days where we looked forward to having the afternoon off and got to stare at a really bad VHS copy of some info-documentary on a screen that was a long way away and on some form of wheeled trolley...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

            ...and anyway, those institution the likes of TravelLodge which are currently open are rarely above 60% occupancy even on a good day so they need to get their story straight when looking for free lodgings!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

            You had a wheeled trolly?

            We just had gravel.

          3. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

            > Nick Ryan

            Damn if I eventually didn't start reading that in a Jeremy Clarkson tone...

          4. Twanky
            Coat

            Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

            immaculate conception

            The dogma of the immaculate conception is about Mary's own conception not that of Jesus. WIYF

        2. Fred Dibnah

          Re: pretty damn sure that I won't be finding some additional person to stay overnight on Sunday.

          I'd rather stay in a stable than a Travelodge.

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

      you can fill it in early - did mine today (Saturday)

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: you can fill it in early - did mine today (Saturday)

        Congratulations, have a few beers --->>

        But don't cause a disturbance of the peace*, or get carted off to hospital, otherwise the police/hospital will have to add you to their census, and you will need to amend yours.

        *In 100 years time, when your descendents research your family tree, they will find out you were a bit of a jailbird. Don't do it!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

      Q1 - as already mentioned, you don't have to fill it in on Sunday. I'm sure/hoping they realised the population of the country may all want to do it at the same time. They've had some years to think about this after all!

      Q2 - Just check Linkedin next week, I'm sure there will be plenty claiming to have built it, not like they need to hang around now, plus the hardware vendors supplying the kit, assuming it all goes ok. I haven't seen any website crash stories yet, so assuming someone is pedalling at the correct speed.

      Q3. - how would I have done it, raffle ticket to determine my place in a queue (we are British at the end of the day) and a cup of tea and wait my turn, watching out for pushers in :-)

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. WolfFan Silver badge

    Bah, humbug

    Do things the right and proper way.

    Name: Yeshua bar Miriam

    Place of birth: Bethlehem

    Place of Residence: Nazareth

    Occupation: Building Contractor

    Religion: Jewish

    Employer: Nazareth City Council

    Dependents: 12

    Legal Status: Son of God

    British Citizen: no

    British Resident: no

    Do I think that this census is a waste of time?: yes

    That should have interesting results…

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Bah, humbug

      Religion: own

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah, humbug

        Religion: Established for a little over 2000 years

  12. Howard Sway

    threats of £1,000 fines being handed to people who don't complete the national survey

    Just think how many more people would complete it if they offered 10 lucky census respondents a prize of £1000 each.

    Which would save a lot of money pursuing non-responders afterwards.

    Although thinking about it, there would probably be lots of fines for people claiming that 600 people live in their house.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: threats of £1,000 fines being handed to people who don't complete the national survey

      Suggested you have that for voting - one lucky voter wins a million quid

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: threats of £1,000 fines being handed to people who don't complete the national survey

        "[...] one lucky voter wins a million quid

        and that just happens to be handy enough to redecorate his flat at No11.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: threats of £1,000 fines being handed to people who don't complete the national survey

        "one lucky voter wins a million quid"

        And the rest get a politician.

  13. AlanSh

    When I got my nuclear clearance I was told I was not allowed to travel to certain countries as "they knew who had that clearance". I wonder where they found that information and whether census information is more or less secure than knowing who has restricted access clearance.

    Alan

    PS -for any Chinese spies, I don't have it any more

    1. Lord Kipper III
      Mushroom

      When I held an SC clearance for work, our headquarters security team were at pains to remind me that I had to notify them of trips overseas. When I asked if this was me asking for permission or just letting them know, they smiled and said that provided North Korea didn't suddenly become a popular holiday destination I'd have little to be concerned about.

      One of the security team was ex-SAS and we used to chat about some of the 'exciting' things he'd done in the past while waiting for meetings to get going. Made his rather plain LinkedIn profile look a lot more interesting...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I held a SC in the early 90s you weren't allowed to visit 'former' iron curtain countries - including the former East Germany or Berlin.

        Meant I couldn't go to the Roger Waters Wall concert = which is probably a blessing.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Foreign visits

          I took my trip to Tibet (an 'autonomous region' of the PRC) while 'between' jobs. I have to admit that it was an excellent holiday, if a bit chilly standing in a katabatic wind flowing down the Rombuk glacier.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "some of the 'exciting' things he'd done in the past while waiting for meetings to get going"

        You know, there are two ways of parsing that.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >"some of the 'exciting' things he'd done in the past while waiting for meetings to get going"

          We've all wanted to garrote the person failing to work out how to share their screen

      3. Twanky

        some of the 'exciting' things...

        To quote someone I once knew: 'We crept in, were beastly to them and then ran away again.'

        British understatement at its best (or worst).

  14. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Destruction of the evidence

    I was on a bid for the previous Census (2011). I was told that after the forms had been processed everything was destroyed. Whatever was in the envelope, would be completely and utterly destroyed. I did wonder what would happen if they received, say, human remains (legal obligation to report to the Police if they could be less than 35 years old), valuable items, or just important documentation - like someone's will. There is a mediocre detective novel in there somewhere.

  15. Totally not a Cylon
    Happy

    Time to emulate Hotblack Desiato;

    and spend a year dead for tax reasons......

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. stiine Silver badge

    Why don't they just have a checkbox that says "please use information from my payroll taxes to complete this form" or don't MoD employees pay taxes?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Hah... rant: when my wife applied for UK citizenship, at a time when it was unclear what would be happening in the Mess Formerly Known As Brexit, we were less than amused to discover that part of the necessary proof required the applicant to ask the government for tax and employment records... to tell a different bit of the government.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "ask the government for tax and employment records... to tell a different bit of the government."

        Nothings changed. Some of our staff need multiple security clearances for multiple contracts and although they all ask almost identical questions, each is run, administered and operated commercial organisations who, for security reasons, are not allowed to talk to each other. Some things really should not be put out to tender. Or at least not separate tenders from different parts of government.

  18. zb42

    When the form turned up, I noted that the website for filling in the census online is hosted on Google Cloud and wandered out to a phone box to request a paper form, which took about eight days to arrive.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

      Don't worry, your data will be stored in a database hosted on AWS...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The 2021 UK census data processing is being done on Google Cloud.

        I think it is safe to assume that the Americans will hand Google a secret FISC warrant or National Security Letter to get all the information and website logs that connects identities and home ip addresses.

  19. Unbelievable!

    Census 2021 -cash for stats is ridiculous. Gov have EVERYTHING already. The list incomplete

    Gov have access to:

    Online acitivity via ISP.

    Location via mobile phone provider.

    Spending, via card provider (visa, Amex etc)

    Savings: via Bank

    Dependents, job, income and pension... : via DWP (mostly targetting employers >employee)

    Education: via DPE

    also records of incarceration, hospital stays, arrests, complaints to councils, registered voters, lotalty cards, motor vehicles insurance, NHS prescriptions, gps, DVLA.... literally EVERYTHING.

    to pay yet another bunch of cash for stats is ridiculous.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Census 2021 -cash for stats is ridiculous. Gov have EVERYTHING already. The list incomplete

      But this is government we're talking about. Collecting up all those records for just one person is probably beyond them. Doing it for the entire population is just ridiculous. (In other words, they aren't paying for the information. They are paying for you to collect it up for them.)

    2. David Roberts Silver badge

      Re: Census 2021 -cash for stats is ridiculous. Gov have EVERYTHING already. The list incomplete

      As a very occasional auditor there is a case for asking for all the data then checking how closely it agrees with the electronic systems.

      I doubt this is the intention though.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Census 2021 -cash for stats is ridiculous. Gov have EVERYTHING already. The list incomplete

      Gov have access to:

      Online acitivity via ISP.

      Location via mobile phone provider.

      Let's start with one of my sisters in law. No internet. No mobile phone.

      You were saying?

  20. AndrueC Silver badge
    WTF?

    Employer's postcode? I've seen a few people mention this but I only had to enter my employer's name. I don't work for a security company or large organisation so it seems odd that I didn't have to give any more information.

    1. herman Silver badge
      Devil

      Prince Andrew I presume?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        GU21 6LJ

  21. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Nothing new

    here... move along

    Considering I spent time working for <redacted dept.> in HM defence ministry, the advice given to us at the time was

    Job title : Civil servant

    Job location: Minstry of defence

    And THAT was it.. you put nothing about what you actually do, or where you actually work.

    And you filled the rest of the form honestly.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new

      I like it that neither the Security Service nor the Secret Intelligence Service has published their advice to their employees. And I've not seen the advice that Police forces give to their CHIS's* either.

      After all 'Describe what you do: 'I spy on international drug smugglers and people traffickers for UK's Special Branch, and only commit serious criminal offences if these have been specifically approved in advance by my handler" might just raise a few eyebrows...

      *CHIS = Covert Human Intelligence Source.

  22. Stanislav Bonita

    Privacy

    In the Philippines the census taker comes to your house, asks you questions, and fills in the form for you.

    I noticed he spelled both my first name and surname wrong. I didn't correct him; it's good to stay under the radar and be able to blame someone else if challenged.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Privacy

      The film "Brazil" comes to mind.

      1. AndyFl

        Re: Privacy

        You are Archibald “Harry” Tuttle and I claim my 5 pounds.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Privacy

          Sorry, if you want to claim the 5 pounds you'll have to complete form 27b/part4, subsection12 to request the application pack for the rewards programme.

  23. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    What am I missing...

    "urges them not to give full and complete answers to questions 41-42, 44, and 50."

    Thank you for that tidbit of information. With some common sense, I can produce a list of all those folks that you do not want me to know about.

    Why would the government publicly release those guidelines?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The census asking detailed questions about a person's gender is a reminder that the Weimar Republic kept good records as a matter of social accuracy. They were very useful lists for the government that came to power after them.

  25. PhillW

    MOD now swarming

    with Jedi.

    Looks like they may have to provide prayer rooms for them, facing achooo or whatever it is.

  26. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Holmes

    Cookies

    https://www.ons.gov.uk/help/cookies

    We use Google Analytics and Hotjar software to collect anonymised information about how you use ons.gov.uk. We do this to help make sure the site is meeting the needs of its users and to help us make improvements to the site.

    We do not allow Google or Hotjar to use or share the data about how you use this site.

    Google Analytics stores information about:

    how you got to the site

    the pages you visit and how long you spend on them

    what you click on while you are visiting

    Hotjar stores information about:

    whether you have participated in a Hotjar survey

    the way in which you interact with a page

    what you click on while you are visiting the site

    That means Google and Hotjar know the answers you give. Information that they do not need to know, and it is none of ONS' business to know if I have participated in a Hotjar survey.

    We do not allow Google or Hotjar to use or share the data about how you use this site.

    It still means they have given Google and Hotjar access to your answers, if not directly, then by inference

    1. Weeble

      Re: Cookies

      A thousand up-votes for that.

      And why, pray, were there any Google scripts on the site for NoScript to block?

      When was the last time Google didn't do something just because they had been asked not to?

      Tomorrow's news: Google apologises for accidentally siphoning up the entire census, "it was a rogue engineer wot dun it".

  27. Efer Brick

    That's forward thinking

    Provisions for data loss built right in

  28. CPU

    So, MOD don't have any confidence?

    Seems to me that MOD don't have any faith that the confidential information given in the Census will remain so? Possibly this is because Gov are in the habit of selling our information to anyone with cash?

  29. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Euphemisms

    I know a chap who served in the special forces who would summarize his occupation with some subtlety:

    "I'm a physical fitness expert. I enjoy long walks in the woods and exploring mountains and caves. I enjoy walking on beaches at night, after the moon has set."

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ONS

    A few weeks ago the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) sent me a letter asking me to use the supplied login code to fill in an online survey form. Several of the questions were the same as the census - including full name and possibly address. The latter would have been correlated with their letter address and the unique login code anyway.

    After I had filled it in - a different letter arrived reminding me to do the form. A little while later another reminder letter arrived. At which point I logged in again - and the web page told me my form had been completed ok. Very strange why they didn't check my filled in form status before sending two reminders.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: ONS

      "After I had filled it in - a different letter arrived reminding me to do the form."

      They use the same software as the cable TV company. After I pay my bill, it takes at least one and sometimes two reminder cycles before they notice I've paid. I have a suspicion this is why my rates keep going up. They are spending piles of money to send me notices and call my phone, always saying "if you've already sent your payment, please disregard this notice". If I'm late, I'll get 4-5 calls per day to tell me "the status of your account has changed". I assigned a silent ringtone and often click the box to send calls straight to VM.

      I'm tempted to sign up for a mobile number where I don't set up the VM, don't turn the phone on with a use plan that only costs me ten or twenty a year if I don't use it. I will give me an emergency back up phone that I can keep loaded with my address book. I can also use it to contact any of the companies that tend to call too often as they'll have the number on file. Hmmmmmmm.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So one bit of the government are telling people not to answer a form from another bit of the government?

    It's almost like they know that data will leak like a collander.

  32. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    So what the ONS are saying is that they do not believe the census process to be secure.

    As such I think the first thing that needs to be done is to find out who the staff are who have decided that the process isn't secure and to sack them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "As such I think the first thing that needs to be done is to find out who the staff are who have decided that the process isn't secure and to sack them."

      Think the steps need to be;

      Complete a GDPR DPIA for this Census project.

      Complete an InfoSec review of the platforms and tech for this Census project.

      Ensure all staff have completed their "Data Handling" courses

      Ensure all data is encrypted in transit and at rest.

      Ensure that the data is accessed, with full audit trails, once it has been submitted - along with repercussions for those who are accessing people's accounts for the hell of it. (e.g. looking up celebrities etc)

  33. batfink Silver badge

    The freeform text fields mystify me

    I was surprised to see that some of the fields were freeform text, like the "what do you do all day?" one IIRC.

    That will make for interesting analysis. Do they have a squad of warm bodies who are going to interpret our vague ramblings and work out that I do the same as some of my colleagues who will have described it differently?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The freeform text fields mystify me

      ""what do you do all day?" "

      Eat Cheese puffs and watch porn.

  34. This Side Up

    In what way...

    Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed

    ... does knowing your sexuality assist local or national authorities in providing services?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021