21 November 2007

The People's Data c 3,800BC - 2007AD

Men and women across Britain are today frantically checking their bank statements for fraudulent withdrawals in memory of The People's Data, which has been tragically lost in a sea of Whitehall incompetence, taking with it the bank records of 25 million individuals and the chief of HM Revenue & Customs, Sir Paul Gray.

The People's Data was first collected in ancient Babylonia in around 3,800BC. Every seven or so years the Babylonian rulers took a census, recording the number of people, their stores of butter, honey, milk, wool and vegetables and their livestock, the data not only giving a useful index of Babylon's prosperity and aiding tax collection, but also explaining where all that dung filling the streets had come from.

From the Babylonians onwards, the collection of The People's Data proved a popular pastime for kings, emperors and other rulers, not only keeping them informed of the health of their city states/kingdoms/empires but also providing a useful distraction from their other favourite pursuits such as wars and having sex with close blood relatives. Indeed so popular were censuses that even God himself got in on the act, ordering Moses to take the number of all the men able to bear arms of the tribes of Israel(1) - a process which proved particularly difficult for Moses as God, being omniscient, could always tell when he'd miscounted.

And so The People's Data continued to be gathered up all the way through history, through the time of the Romans and the Domesday Book and on towards the present day. With more and more data being collected, its storage became increasingly problematic. Indeed, by 1890 the data for the US Census had to be recorded on punched cards - the holes recording either the data of each individual or the passage of the buckshot directed at the census taker when he attempted to obtain that data from backwoodsy types with a hatred of big government and a love of the Second Amendment. Many feared that the collection of so much data in such a small place might lead to it falling into the wrong hands, though such fears were allayed first by the many precautions taken by the US government and, secondly, by the fact that any attempt to read it would have required a card-reader the size of a small house.

It was the arrival of computerisation that saw an explosion in The People's Data. Soon governments across the world were trying to record every last bit of The People's Data they could. And no government was more enthusiastic in this regard than that of the UK, which sought to record everything from people's financial details to the weight of their rubbish bins, their DNA fingerprints, inherited diseases, inside leg measurements and (doubtless) their favourite football teams and sexual preferences. Yet all the while they insisted that the ever-swelling People's Data was in safe hands, despite the fact that those hands belonged to the same people who gave us The Millennium Dome, The Northern Rock Crisis and Government Statistics.

Perhaps, then, we should not have been surprised when those safe hands proved to be butter-fingered, allowing the financial records of more than 25 million Britons to slip from their grasp and into the choppy waters of the Customs and Revenue internal mail system. So it was that the Government was forced to declare The People's Data lost, presumed in the hands of internet fraudsters and identity thieves.

The People's Data will be buried in several computers in Russia, where it will rest in peace until such time as things have quietened down a bit and it can be flogged off to the highest bidder. It is survived by The People's NHS Records, The People's CCTV images and The People's ID cards.

Except the Levites(2)
(2) Who were instead told to go and manufacture denim jeans, or something ... we may have nodded off at that point in our RE lessons.

1 Comment:

Lord James-River said...

It all makes you feel secure somehow.