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Greens demand boycott of Lockheed Martin census trial

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The Green Party has called for a boycott of the UK's 2007 census pilot because it is being run by US weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Writing in the New Statesman yesterday, Green Party spokeswoman Sian Berry relayed her alarm that Lockheed, "biggest defence contractor in the world; manufacturer of land mines, depleted uranium shells and Trident missiles; provider of freelance interrogators for Guantanamo Bay; and self-proclaimed master of 'integrated threat information'," would be running the UK census trial on 13 May.

"As an all-round opponent of the arms trade, supporting companies like this with public contracts alarms me," said Berry in a statement today. "It's a bad sign of the developing database state, and shows that ID cards could lead to our identities being under the control of some very doubtful corporations."

She claimed that NASA had already tried to use US census data to create a database of suspect people, but had been stopped by civil liberties campaigners.

"The only responsible and prudent thing to do in this situation is to boycott the test census. Non-participation sends a signal to the government that we want more controls on who processes information about us."

On the part of Lockheed's website devoted to its military intelligence business, the firm boasts: "During times of conflict, dominating the information spectrum has become as critical as occupying the land or controlling the air."

But in a written statement, Lockheed said: "All the information collected is protected by law under the Census [Confidentiality] Act 1991, and all Lockheed Martin and subcontractor personnel have signed individual compliance agreements.

"At no time will the information leave the government facilities operated by the Office for National Statistics. Census forms will be held securely under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958."

The statement said Lockheed already does work for the Royal Mail, auto-reading hand-written address labels; and it provides air traffic control software. In defence, it manufactures the Royal Navy's Merlin helicopter.

It did not mention land mines, missiles, or other highlights of the Lockheed Martin catalogue.

Berry wasn't reassured: "I think it will take a lot more than that to convince people their details will be safe. Not using an American arms company to run the census would be a start."

The weekend's trial is a preparation for the full census in 2011. The Office of National Statistics, which runs the census and contracted Lockheed, was not available for comment, but census director Ian Cope said in reply to Berry's article that the boycott was "short-sighted and irresponsible". ®

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