Lockheed Martin and the 2011 census

Someone on Twitter this morning highlighted to me the annoyance that was raging online over the Office for National Statistics’ decision to award a significant portion of the 2011 census contract to Lockheed Martin. The rage was encompassed in the Census Alert website, and was specifically directed at LM being the world’s number one military contractor and arms exporter, its involvement in Iraq and the “War on Terror” (their quotes, not mine), and its involvement in the Echelon global surveillance network.

I’m guessing that some of these credentials did not adversely affect LM being selected by governments on both sides of the Atlantic for defence-related contracts. Yet it seems moral grounds should be included as an evaluation criterion in the OJEU process for census data processing.

First, some facts. LM seems to have a good track record in this field. It provided the data capture elements of the UK’s census of 2001, as well as being involved in censuses for Canada and the USA.

LM has worked on technical systems supporting Scotland and Northern Ireland’s air traffic control and the Royal Mail’s post sorting operations. And it is considered sufficiently trustworthy to provide the Metropolitan Police with a new Command, Control, Communication and Information System.

And it certainly has strong financial backing for the £150m contract, with a market capitalisation of $28bn and a 2009 net income a little over $3bn.

Now to the campaign. And here’s the most bizarre bit. Beyond the arguments listed above, there’s this nugget below:

We are not opposed to the Census itself. Aggregated, the information collected is important in allocating resources to local authorities and public services.

But personal privacy is important too, and we are concerned that Lockheed Martin’s involvement could undermine public confidence in the process and lead to inaccurate data being collected.

That second paragraph is important. The campaign itself is advertising and making an issue of LM’s involvement in the census. Yet they are worried that awareness of such involvement could undermine public confidence, leading to inaccuracies.

It’s highly unlikely that the contract will be withdrawn from LM as a result of the campaign. And so the campaign is only likely to exacerbate one of the very issues it is worried about: inaccuracies. (Although I very much doubt that the campaign will be seen by sufficient people to have a statistically significant impact on the census results.)

The government must, and does, have criteria determining which organisations can be selected to provide its services—terrorist organisations, for example, are out. But if Lockheed Martin pass muster to provide our missiles, then why not for optical character recognition of our census data? Or should we use different moral selection criteria depending on the government department procuring the services?


2 Responses to “Lockheed Martin and the 2011 census”

  1. Adrian Short on February 23rd, 2011 17:02

    Nothing to do with LM, but if the census is designed to capture aggregate data for statistical use, where’s the necessity for people to identify themselves at all?

    Couldn’t you use the envelope-within-envelope process for postal voting (and its digital equivalent) and anonymise all the returns?

  2. Savio on March 11th, 2011 21:00


    I have little idea as to the logic of this article. I don’t follow.

    Perhaps the author is unaware of the fact that the measure for which they justify Lockheed’s integrity is rather bankrupt given that it is an amoral institution that sells illegal weaponry (including land mines illegal in many countries) and arms many despotic, oppressive regimes worldwide, principally the United States, the most violent and aggressive state power in the world contrary to popular myth. It received 80% of its revenue from the US government… so surely that means from the US people, who are vastly against Washington’s wars, which less we forget, were and remain illegal under the fallacy known as ‘international law’.

    With even the most feeble research, it’s quite easy to find a catalogue of repugnant Lockheed Martin practices and crimes.



    and the Census itself:


    The attitude of the government is revealing. A £1000 fine. It is illegal to be offended, or sceptical of handing over information to one criminal faction who mingles around with another criminal faction. A faction of people who reward the parasitic bankers with impunity to suck the lifeblood out of the masses whilst propping up despots like Mubarak and making oil deals with psychopaths like Gadaffi.

    The fact that we are so deeply under the spell of state propaganda, or detached so ingeniously from reality at the hands of social engineers (queue Edward Bernays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays), does not mean we should just be quiet.

    Concur with the above. ‘The government’, that really exists in our own heads, should not have that ridiculous level of power, re, a name, number and location of everyone in the country. Just not necessary.

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