Addicted to novelty since 2001

Lockheed Martin and the 2006 Census

As Brian, Richard and Boing Boing point out, Lockheed Martin is the software and hardware provider for Statistics Canada’s 2006 census, which Canadians are required by law to complete.

There’s a website–CountMeOut.ca–protesting this relationship, and encouraging Canadians to “buy into the MINIMUM COOPERATION strategy” for the census. They’ve got a big list of tactics, which include:

  • You may like to have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, while you are completing your census form. Careful not to spill. But if you do, don’t worry–your form can still be processed manually instead of by the Lockheed Martin scanning software system.
  • You may like to add a sticker or two on your census form, perhaps a sticker with your name and address, or a sticker to promote your favourite charity.

Am I pleased that Stats Canada outsourced to the Canadian subsidiary of an American company that also manufactures weapons (their slogan: “We Never Forget Who We are Working For”)? Not at all. Am I going to screw with my census form as a means of protest? Nope.

Why not?

  • It’ll cost my government more money to process the form.
  • The census is important. I’d imagine that every department in the government relies on it as a resource. A government with good data (hopefully) makes better decisions.
  • Lockheed Martin makes parts for civilian aircrafts (not to mention the Hubble telescope) too. It’d be a little hypocritical to boycott the census and then climb on one of their planes, wouldn’t it?
  • There are dozens of other protest strategies–from writing to my MP to staging a sit-in in the Stats Canada office (a hilarious notion, come to think of it)–available to me. Most (if not all) of these strategies are going to send a clearer, more effective message to my government.

Messing with the census form is like ruining your ballot–a protest, but not a particularly good one. Which would have a bigger impact on Stats Canada’s policies: 50,000 people obfuscate their census forms, or 50,000 people call, email and fax the agency with their criticism of their outsourcing decision?

9 Responses to “Lockheed Martin and the 2006 Census”

  1. David Lewis

    Darren,

    Very well said.

    I was happy to see the direction you took in your thoughts to the BoingBoing post.

    Not filling out the form (and it is the law), by mail or online means that humans have to intervene and drives costs (our tax dollars)up. The data, as you said, is used by everyone, government, private organizations, everyone, so having accurate data is very important – and the data is used for years – 2001 data is still be used until 2006 data starts coming out – Jan/Feb 2007.

    Re LM, good points, and just to be clear, LM has no access, period, to the data. They just supplied hardware and software. Statistics Canada employees are the only ones that see the raw data, and the data that is released, is released in such a way that no one’s personal identity can be identified. And, no other government department has access to the data either.

    Anyway, again, very well thought out reply.

    Cheers,

    David

  2. Richard

    But David, think of the backdoors that Lockheed Martin could have put into the hardware and software? Won’t somebody please think of the backdoors?!?!

    But seriously–or rather, more seriously–Darren asks “50,000 people obfuscate their census forms, or 50,000 people call, email and fax the agency with their criticism of their outsourcing decision?” That’s so pre-1999. Even better to have 50,000 complain not directly but on their weblog. That’ll learn ’em!

  3. Darren

    Richard: True, if I cared enough about this issue, I would write a letter to my MP (unfortunately, she’s not in government, and probably more concerned about winning the Liberal leadership race).

  4. David Lewis

    Ah, the backdoors … well, hopefully not. ;) Well, there could be the Boing-Boing effect …

    Darren … are you in Hedy Fry’s land … argh … they’ll be crosses burning in Yaletown if she gets in. ;)

  5. Richard

    An MP not being part of the governing party isn’t a very good reason not to complain to said MP. That person still represents you (or, at least in theory, should).

  6. Don Rogers

    Hello all,

    The confidentiality-or-not of the census, given Lockheed-Martin wrote the customized software is debatable. The only way to prove the concerns is if personal data ends up in the hands of the CIA–and then, they would not tell us anyway.

    StatsCan are trying to confine the debate to privacy, which cannot be proven one way or the other. http://www.CountMeOut.ca advocates minimum cooperation for other reasons as well (1) ethics of public money going to a subsidiary of the likes of Lockheed Martin, a weapons manufacturer, also a contracted interrogator of prisoners at Guantanamo (2) this advances Canada further down the road of deep integration with the US, until there is no more Canada (3) loss of Canadian StatsCan jobs to LM automation.
    http://www.CountMeOut does not advocate refusing to answer the census questions, just doing it in a way that makes it difficult for StatsCan and nullifies any supposed savings gained by contracting out. Saving money is good, but it is not absolute; other factors enter the equation too.

    But see for yourself, visit http://www.CountMeOut.ca to be edified and entertained.

    Best regards
    Don Rogers, Kingston Ont
    http://www.CountMeOut.ca

  7. Sonia Schmitt

    Are you aware of the fact that LM contains multiple companies, especially one focused on Information and Tech Services? With our vast experience in working with governments, we actually save our customers money on their programs?

  8. Mike

    Well I didn’t fill out my census form – fuck that.
    I think it stinks that the Canadian government finds it necessary to contract out collection dissemination and processing of vitally important information to a company with deep ties to any recent US administration.

    But I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by creatively filing it – I’m gonna save my own time doing something – anything – more important.

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