Allowing commercial access to highly detailed, sensitive information for private profit undermines both trust and the public good.
Selling access to unprotected ONS microdata such as the census, Health Survey and workforce and wage information may make peanuts for companies and their shareholders, compared to the very real damage to public confidence in our National Statistics that will come from these proposals.
You can still say no by adding your name to our open letter (before Sunday 29th March, 2015) :
Dear National Statistician,
We are writing to express in the strongest possible terms our expectation that the Office for National Statistics will keep its promises. A number of proposals, in particular the introduction of commercial use, in your consultation on the Approved Researcher scheme throw this into serious doubt. Are you going to conflate commercial interest with public interest?
There can be no commercial use of unprotected data held by ONS; the terms under which we gave it to you cannot be changed retroactively at your whim. Proposal 8 would fundamentally change the rules, breaking your existing consent models and undermining confidence in your collections and your mission.
The census is compulsory, but for centuries there have been very clear rules around its use. Now you seem to be proposing to toss those rules away, if someone claims they can make some money. Research is vital to the public interest, but it must not be confused or corrupted by commercial interests wanting data for their own purposes.
Even with the exclusion of any profit motive, to maintain confidence, everything done as an Approved Researcher must be readable, for free, on the internet. We trust you will reject Proposal 8 and continue to meet your objective of “promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good.”
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