ONS faces fresh Census backlash

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is facing a new headache following a fresh call for consumers to boycott the Census, as forms land on doormats this week.
First, a coalition of anti-war groups, pacifists, religious organisations and digital activists called for a boycott because of the involvement of Lockheed Martin, America’s largest arms manufacturer, in collating the data.
Now the public are being urged to boycott the Census in Scotland over the involvement of CACI, after claims resurfaced of the alleged involvement of its US parent company in the torture of prisoners at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
CACI International has always denied involvement in human rights abuses after it provided staff to the US army to conduct IT and intelligence work in Iraq and has defended itself in US courts against lawsuits brought by a number of former prisoners. It said: “Seven years on, the allegation remains totally unfounded and unproven.”
But civil liberties group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) is calling for the £18.5m contract it awarded to CACI (UK) to be scrapped. An SACC spokesman said: “If the Scottish government won’t cancel the contract, I hope that people in Scotland will use Census day to say ‘no’ to this dirty business.”
Protesters face a £1,000 fine and a criminal record by refusing to fill in the 32-page questionnaire. There have been claims that nearly a million people were missed in the last census in 2001 and this time a number of major councils have expressed fears that lessons have not been learnt.
Census statistics are used to allocate public money for local services including education, housing, transport and health. Over £100bn per year of public money is distributed nationally using population estimates.
Marketers will have to wait at least two years until they get their hands on the Census data and although some claim the information will then be out of date, many data companies – including Experian and CACI – use the data to update or build new products.

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