* How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

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DavidNewton
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How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by DavidNewton » 25 May 2019 12:13

At the top of the 1911 household census form you will find a statement part of which is given below.

The contents of the Schedule will be treated as confidential. Strict care will be taken that no information is disclosed with regard to individual persons.

Now I believe that there is an understanding that after 100 years this no longer applies. Is this mentioned elsewhere in the Census Schedules or did a subsequent government change the meaning of the word 'confidential' to mean 'we'll keep it to ourselves for 100 years and then give it to anybody who is prepared to pay'.

I think (but have no reference) that a similar confidentiality agreement was broken in one of the nineteenth century censuses, very quickly, when census returns were used to find out whether or not people were sending their children to school.

Should we be grateful that records such as these are made available or should it be used as an indication to consider carefully what you reveal when filling out 'confidential' forms?

David

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LornaCraig
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Re: How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by LornaCraig » 25 May 2019 12:35

The 1911 census was released after a legal challenge by Guy Etchells under the Freeedom of Information Act. Previously TNA had applied the non-statutory '100 year rule' (and even that seemed to contravene the 'confidentiality' statement) but they were forced to release it a couple of years early, with 'sensitive' information redacted.

It seems likely that the 1921 census will not be released before the 100 years is up. See for example this quote from https://www.abroadintheyard.com/access- ... y-release/
Unlike the 1911 Census however, the 1921 Census was taken after the enactment of the 1920 Census Act. The Act, by statutory provision, prohibits the disclosure of the 1921 Census and so is immune to challenge under FOI. The Government intends to publish the 1921 Census in 2022 when its non-statutory 100 year rule is up (the 100 year rule has been in place for census records since 1962, for disclosure of the 1861 Census). This hasn’t stopped the lobbying for its early release.
Even when information about living people is supposed to be redacted (for example in the 1939 Register) we all know that mistakes are made. However I think the information anyone could obtain from historical documents is probably fairly harmless compared with what modern computer hackers can find out about our current lives, so I don't think I'll worry too much!
Lorna

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Gowermick
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Re: How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by Gowermick » 25 May 2019 14:58

LornaCraig wrote: Even when information about living people is supposed to be redacted (for example in the 1939 Register) we all know that mistakes are made. However I think the information anyone could obtain from historical documents is probably fairly harmless compared with what modern computer hackers can find out about our current lives, so I don't think I'll worry too much!
Did you see the piece on 'Watchdog" the other evening. The Talktalk data breach in 2015 allowed 1000's of people's personal data (including bank details) to be made freely available on-line (and it is still there!!!! ). Apparently no hacking is required to find it!
No, I haven't looked :D
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AdrianBruce
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Re: How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by AdrianBruce » 25 May 2019 19:43

DavidNewton wrote:... Should we be grateful that records such as these are made available or should it be used as an indication to consider carefully what you reveal when filling out 'confidential' forms? ...
Despite the "or" that you put in, I think the answer is "yes" and "yes".

Yes - we should always "consider carefully what you reveal when filling out 'confidential' forms" because no matter what the law is now, it may be altered tomorrow. It's a fundamental part of the British Constitution (wot we don't actually have!) that no government may bind its successor - hence the difficulty in making referendums mandatory (many people imply that this is laziness on behalf of MPs - it's actually quite difficult to construct a mandatory referendum). All that any government may do is pass a law - and those can be repealed.

Yes - we should be grateful. As Lorna says (or I think this is the gist of it), the legislation actually mandates that censuses carried out under the 1920 Census Act, cannot be released. There is no release clause. Fortunately, government - so far - seems sensible enough to step in and do whatever fairy-godmother stuff is necessary to release it. Just be thankful that we're not like the US who create a Death Master File (horrible title) to stop fraud and then refuse to release it to allow fraud to be stopped. Sort of. All while releasing their own census after just 72y! Go figure!
Adrian

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DavidNewton
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Re: How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by DavidNewton » 26 May 2019 08:48

Apologies I was using the logical 'or' which does not exclude 'and', whereas I guess the normal use of 'or' does suggest that 'and' is not available.
I agree that both answers should be yes.
David

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Re: How would we fare if the Records Office honoured its confidentiality agreements?

Post by Mark1834 » 26 May 2019 18:33

Interesting to read the arguments for and against in the link Lorna posted. For me, it is clear - our hobby does not trump assurances given in 1921, and it should stay confidential until 2022.
Mark Draper

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