"So NO2ID and Big Brother Watch would like the government to join up all their existing databases..."
Maybe Dan Hamilton mis-spoke, but I'm sure he didn't mean what he appeared to say. NO2ID is certainly not advocating more data-sharing. That is our principal objection to the current census - that it has dropped its previous firm silo rule and thanks to a sneaky piece of Blair legislation, s39 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 is now potentially given up to all sorts of notionally good excuses from bits of government to see the raw data.
There is a broader point that the expansion of the questionnaire just shows official truffling for information *because it might be there* and our privacy be damned. But one might argue that that is part of the culture that gave use such joys as the SRSA.
The information just *isn't needed*. It isn't that they don't need a census because they can get the same data by joining up databases. It isn't needed at all. You might like it. Officials do like it. But the pretext given is tripe.
The aggregate figures and distributions needed, purportedly, for planning purposes can be abstracted from other sources to the degree of accuracy actually required - probably better than that provided by a monstrous headcount. certainly quicker and cheaper - without any individual's personal information being looked at by human eye. Only government would think of doing it by creating a massive new database and hoovering up anything else they thought they could get away with at the same time.
We've been here before, on a miniature scale, with the HMRC Child Benefit records - sample needed, entire database provided... or sent, at least.
@AC [Non-Compliance Detection]:
Theoretically there's a £1000 penalty. If you refuse. However the 2001 census is reckoned to have missed around 800,000-900,000 men under 40 (really, really accurate and useful, then) with the ONS rather pathetically pleading at one point that they all must have been on holiday. I believe 38 people were fined for outright refusal.
And if this is a vital survey telling the department things it couldn't know otherwise *and* will be keeping completely confidential, then I await with interest the ONS's policy on prosecution for false declarations.