Whilst my walk home from work takes me past the Home Office and countless CCTV cameras, it is not often that one returns home to find the Big Brother state staring up from the doormat. Yet, that is exactly what happened last night when I stepped inside my front door and found the 'Westminster Lifestyle Survey' waiting patiently for my return.
The stated purpose of the document is to 'paint a clearer picture of the daily lives of our local community' which, although intrusive, could be seen as having some utility in terms of local service provision. But it is hard not to be shocked by the intrusiveness of some of the questions.
The survey successfully nails each of the 'big hitters' in terms of interfering, nannying government. If you click on the thumbnails to the right you will see a few of the pages residents are encouraged to answer.
There is, of course, a 'what you eat' and 'smoking and drinking' questionnaire; the more concerning 'how do you feel?' and then the terrific 'About You', which not only requires you hand over all the standard information, but also your estimated household income and 'working status'.
NHS Westminster skillfully plays to its intended audience by offering a £10 high-street shopping voucher to the first 100 people to return the document completed, and claim that any personal information is kept 'strictly confidential'.
There are several questions that come to mind. Why, for instance, does the survey require a name, address and financial income? – if it were simply for targeting local services it would not matter who was responding.
But the overall impression one gets reading this survey is that it is all about building a profile for each person in the area, so that they can be targeted and sold-to at every opportunity. The state wants to know what we eat, drink, smoke and feel because it already knows where we go, how much we spend and what our interests are.
Privacy is a foreign country.
By Dylan Sharpe