Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is answering the census safe?

NOTE: Checking Census law reveals that it is illegal to refuse to answer the census questions.

In an opinion piece on csmonitor.com James Bovard examines the possibility that our census answers may not be as private as we're promised they'll be. He looks at the historical record the census bureau has built regarding privacy of census data. It doesn't look too good. The first mar on the bureaus record was the production of a list of Japanese Americans on the East coast within days of Pearl Harbor. Although they are now remembered (when mentioned at all) as "internment camps," or "War Relocation Camps," Japanese Americans were rounded up and put into concentration camps. The Census Bureau denied any such activity until 2000, and denied giving specific names and addresses until it was proved in 2007 that exactly that information had been provided.

The Department of Homeland Security was given similar information by the Census Bureau in 2003-2004 regarding people of Middle Eastern ancestry in the U.S. No roundups occurred, but they would have been much easier with that information.

Mr. Bovard talks about the abuses to citizen privacy in the last 10 years, and points out that all the census is really required to gather by the constitution is a count of citizens, and the number of people living at each address is all that anyone should provide. Especially since the government obviously is more concerned with gathering as much information as it can about citizens than protecting their rights. It was true of the Bush administration, and by all the evidence nothing has changed with the Obama administration. I have no doubt that census data will be used in whatever fashion the government feels the need to use it, no matter what the law says.