Data rape (or ‘Open wide and say baaaa!’)

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence… Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference…

Article 12 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Did anyone else out there feel dirty when they posted their census form last week? I know I did.

Not to get overly het up and civil libertarian about it but, seriously, is any of this information really necessary?

No doubt the basic justification is that the government needs it to plan vital public services, but this is patently ridiculous. Are you telling me that the provision of education, health, transport, policing, housing and so on is currently being planned on the basis of answers I gave in 2001?

In any event, what vital demographic information could the authorities possibly need that they don’t already know?

Even if it were necessary (apparently, the Dutch haven’t felt it so since 1971), exactly how are we supposed to feel about using the Royal Mail to post our personal data to a bloody great warehouse in Manchester, where it’s to be processed by a temporary workforce in the employ of a subsidiary of a US arms manufacturer, and who will eventually supply it to a civil service that’s shown an uncanny knack of leaving swathes of sensitive information lying around on public transport?

We’re all advised these days to shred anything that has our name and address on it before throwing it in the trash, to avoid the risk of identity theft, and yet we’re legally compelled to place our unwavering trust just such a process.

In the end, that legal compulsion is the only reason I filled in the form and, having done so, I feel like a sheep – a defiled one at that. Baaaaa!


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