Feeds

Head of Stats warns politicians: 'Hands off our numbers!'

"No sh*t, Sherlock" moment after public confidence warning

3 Big data security analytics techniques

UK Party leaders were this week on the receiving end of a sharp rap to the knuckles, as a letter from the Head of the UK Statistics Authority, the aptly named Sir Michael Scholar, warned them to keep their paws off official stats for the duration of the election campaign.

The letter is a masterpiece of understatement, combining pre-emptive rebuke with a shame-faced plea for greater attention and, by implication, protection from cuts in a time of cutbacks.

Sir Michael begins with an observation that may prove useful to those unaware of the religious affiliations of the Pope or the defecatory habits of bears. He states: "Public confidence in official statistics is low and there is a perception that official statistics are subject to political interference."

However, his view of the world is upbeat. He goes on: "Progress has been made in recent years – notably through the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 – in building the trustworthiness of official statistics. But more needs to be done."

In this case, "more" decodes as:

* Strengthening and entrenching of arrangements for ensuring the independence and impartiality of statisticians in ALL Government Departments.

* More use being made the Statistics Authority – particularly in respect of the allocation of statistical resources.

* Asking the Statistics Authority to determine the pre-release access arrangements for all official statistics.

The last point, Sir Michael explains, is just in case anyone should be so perverse as to believe that ministers and their advisers manipulate official statistics before they are published.

How anyone can believe this following the recent appointment of a new and independent academic to head up the fight against drugs is quite beyond us.

However, ministers have been involved in misunderstandings over the release of statistics before. Back in November 2008, the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was told off for premature release of ONS figures on knife crime. Similarly, in 2009, Harriet Harman came under fire for misleading the Commons over the whole question of how pay inequalities were calculated.

The issue is likely to be particularly sensitive at election time, as politicians of all parties may be tempted to make selective use of official statistics to bolster their case, with little concern for the damage done to public confidence in them.

Sadly, misleading election advertising is not subject to quite the same strictures as ordinary advertising. In the case of the latter, the Advertising Standards Authority might eventually do something about it: for the former, they will do nothing. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.