Classified information in the United Kingdom is a system used to protect information - which may be Classified Information - from intentional or inadvertent release to another state. The system is owned by the Cabinet Office and is implemented throughout central and local government and the critical national infrastructure. The system is also used by private sector bodies which provide services to the public sector.
The system is included in the Manual of Protective Security which specifies the impact of release and protection level required for each classification. Departments issue localised versions of the content of the MPS as appropriate to their operational needs.
Security clearance is obtained following a period of vetting.
System of Classification
The system uses four levels of classification, supplemented with caveats:
Information marked as Restricted is at a level where the release of the material will have effects such as significant distress to individuals, adversely affecting the effectiveness of military operations, or to compromise law enforcement. In many cases, information held by personnel offices in Government departments will be marked as Restricted with the additional tag Staff, such that access requires clearance both for the marking and the tag.
Practically disclosure means - the Russkies will have a quiet chuckle about how stupid these Englanders are to let their information slip and go back to plotting the takeover of the free world.
The effects of releasing information marked as Confidential include considerable infringement on personal liberties, material damage to diplomatic relations, or to seriously disrupt day-to-day life in the country.
Practically disclosure means - the Russkies will know who you are and where you live. And who all your mates are and where they all live - assuming that you and your mates are all civvies.
This marking is used for information whose side-effects may be life-threatening, disruptive to public order or detrimental to diplomatic relations with friendly nations.
Practically disclosure means - the Russkies will smile wickedly as they watch a shouting match between the PM and the President of France over exactly what Prince Harry did ten years ago at the French Ambassador's dinner party involving a few buckets of Stella and a drawing pin. As a result some of your mates may die a horrible death.
Information marked as Top secret is that which whose release is liable to cause considerable loss of life, international diplomatic incidents, or severely impact ongoing intelligence operations.
Practically disclosure means - the Russkies will cackle maliciously, drink a little vodka and then you, and all your mates, will die a horrible death.
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