The US Census Bureau is not suppose to divulge your confidential information. They assure you, as they stand at your door tagging your location with their handheld GPS devices(Click on the article:Does Not Compute) that all the information that you give them is kept strictly confidential. So how did director of strategy and policy analysis at the Soufan Group Daniel Freedman fare when he received the American Community Survey? By his own words, not good, not good at all.
Freedman received the ACS in January. He thought that the questions ranged from invasive to strange to creepy to Orwellian. He questioned friends in the Justice Department who thought it was some kind of sophisticated mail fraud. But after enough research he discovered it wasn’t a fraud. He spent an hour answering questions. Now I don’t know if Mr. Freedman has others living in his home but I know that it would take more than an hour if there were more than one or two people living in a home. However, he completed the form and dropped it in the mail towards the end of January.
That’s when the nightmare began. A few weeks later he received a note stuck in his door from a census worker asking that he call her. He did and she said she wanted to come by his home and complete the questions. He replied that he had already filled out the form and mailed it back and that if they had lost it then it was their duty to find it and that he didn’t want a stranger in his home asking him personal questions that he had already answered. She ignored him and turned up at his home unannounced, twice. She demanded entry and gave dire warnings of the fines he would face. (To the best of my knowledge, at this time no one has been fined by the US Census Bureau for refusing to fill out the forms. The Census Bureau is in enough hot water without going high-profile with a court case that is sure to get an amazing amount of coverage.)
Freedman quoted the Fourth Amendment to her, the right for citizens to be secure in their persons, houses, personal effects and papers against unreasonable searches. By this time it was March and he sent a letter of complaint to the census worker’s regional director.
On March 23 Freedman was contacted by an American Community Survey program supervisor who told him that indeed his form had been received at the Census Bureau on February 8 but that it had been “sitting on the sidelines” ( a sad little eupherism for “lost and we didn’t know where it was for several weeks”) and never processed. She thanked him for the letter of complaint as it was his letter that prompted the search for the missing form. Right, they didn’t even know they had the form or that it was missing in action until they received the letter of complaint that Freedman wrote. Yes, the form that had his name, address, phone number and all kinds of personal information in it.
So there you have it, a government “worker bee” swollen with self-importance, using her probably temporary position to attempt to bully her way into an American citizen’s home using threats of fines and wielding the power of the Department of Commerce.
Of course, the real question here is just how confidential and secure was Mr. Freedman’s personal information for the several weeks that no one knew where it was?
Freedman also said that in the past census workers have also accidently published people’s personal information on public websites. Well, that certainly may be so. We do know for a fact that during World War I census information was used to round up draft dodgers and in the 1940’s census information was handed over to the FBI and other government agencies and was used to round up Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps. The WWII release of information to the FBI was kept a secret for sixty-five years. The Census Bureau was also used to identify Arab Americans after 9/11. A whooping twenty percent of the questions on census forms are race questions. Homeland Security being the many-headed Hydra that it is today I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for all the law-abiding, naturalized citizens who, seeking freedom and opportunity, came here from other countries.
I tried to post a link here to Mr. Freedman’s original article at the Weekly Standard but for some reason it isn’t posting as a link. In any case here is the address of the article. You might be able to highlight, copy, and paste it into your browser bar.
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