No. Your Answers to The Census Aren’t Confidential

Mary Theroux explains why you shouldn’t believe government claims that Census answers are confidential:

I saw a huge new billboard in San Francisco the other day—part of the $350 million ad campaign supporting this year’s $14 billion Census—picturing an American Indian in full regalia against a black background, apparently in the process of worshiping the sky, with the stylized text “Tell your story.”

If he’s wise, he might want to think twice about thereby providing information that can be used against him.

As examples, 1940 Census data was released and used to locate and intern Americans of Japanese, Italian and German descent, as outlined in these stories from Scientific American, “Confirmed: The U.S. Census Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WW II: Government documents show that the agency handed over names and addresses to the Secret Service,” and USA Today, “Papers show Census role in WWII camps.”

The Census Bureau played a role in the confinement of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were rounded up and held in internment camps, many until the war ended in 1945. In 1942, the Census turned over general statistics about where Japanese-Americans lived to the War Department. It was acting legally under the Second War Powers Act, which allowed the sharing of information for national security.

The newly released documents [further] show that in 1943, the Census complied with a request by the Treasury Department to turn over names of individuals of Japanese ancestry in the Washington, D.C., area because of an unspecified threat against President Franklin Roosevelt. The list contained names, addresses and data on the age, sex, citizenship status and occupation of Japanese-Americans in the area. [emphasis added]

And more recently, in 2002,

the Census turned over information it had collected about Arab-Americans … to Homeland Security.

While the Census Bureau assures us that “your confidentiality is protected. Title 13 requires the Census Bureau to keep all information about you and all other respondents strictly confidential,” the exceptions above negate such assurances. And, of course, their release of the “strictly confidential” data was perfectly legal: during World War II, under the terms of the Second War Powers Act, and more recently under the terms of the still-in-effect USA PATRIOT Act.

And there’s more.

(Via David Beito)

4 Responses to “No. Your Answers to The Census Aren’t Confidential”

  1. Fight4fre3dom Says:

    I would just like to tell Ron Paul that about the census I sent it back in at the last minute cause I didn’t want an IRS agent coming to my door and now I got a letter by a group called NORK wanting me to take a survey which they say goes above and beyond the census but they urge me to take this survey they want to know what my attitude is about the government programs and how active I am and what activities I do in my community, should I be worried?

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