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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Monday, 13 April 2015

In which I break a promise...

A while ago I promised, more or less, not to bring up the subject of the Great British Class Survey in these precincts again. So let's just call this a contribution to information diffusion. 

The data are now deposited in the UK Data Archive and you can read the documentation here. And very interesting reading it makes too. If you have a stomach for it you can also download the data. This is where it gets really interesting. 

Remember the GfK molehill that supported the GBCS mountain? If you want to know how solidly attached to the ground that molehill  is you really need to look at the marginal distributions of household income and wealth. There is something primitively satisfying about having one's intuitions confirmed. In Sunday school we used to sing a chorus about the foolish man who built his house upon the sand...

The terms of the agreement you have sign to get the data are themselves interesting. I've never seen anything like it. Here they are in full:

BBC Great British Class Survey, 2011-2013
Additional Agreement on Conditions of Use
The BBC Data Collection shall not be used in a manner which:
  • distorts the original meaning of the BBC Data Collection, for example by changing the context;
  • discriminates against any specific social group or otherwise exploit vulnerable sections of society;
  • promotes, encourages or facilitates violence;
  • promotes, encourages or facilitates illegal activity;
  • promotes, encourages or facilitates terrorism or other activities which risk national security;
  • promotes the tobacco, armaments, alcohol or pornographic industries;
  • encourages hatred on grounds of race, religion, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation;
  • promotes, encourages or facilitates anti-social behaviour;
  • might be perceived as damaging the BBC's reputation for accuracy or impartiality; or
  • otherwise brings the BBC into disrepute.

Can anyone tell me what the first of these means? And the last looks pretty scary too. Who knows, in the eyes of some corporate lawyer or other, just by writing this I may already have broken the conditions of use. I could go on about the dangers of public bodies confounding their commercial interests with their public service duties, but I've probably said enough already. 

I'll let you know if a solicitor's envelope arrives on my doorstep.

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