The 2010 Census: Will your answers stay private?
What you need to know about the 2010 Census: The bureau has a proven history of violating privacy in the name of security.
In his State of the Union message, President Obama warned that America is suffering from a “deficit of trust.” One example of this deficit is the controversy over whether citizens can trust the feds to keep the census responses they’re filling out in coming weeks confidential.Skip to next paragraph
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Americans are told that the Census Bureau operates under a reverse Miranda warning: Any information gathered will never be used against them. The House of Representatives, in a Census Awareness Month resolution passed March 3, proclaimed that “the data obtained from the census are protected under United States privacy laws.”
Unfortunately, thousands of Americans who trusted the Census Bureau in the past lost their freedom as a result.
In the 1940 Census, the Census Bureau loudly assured people that their responses would be kept confidential. Within four days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Census Bureau had produced a report listing the Japanese-American population in each county on the West Coast. The Census Bureau launched this project even before Congress declared war on Japan. The Census Bureau’s report helped the US Army round up more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans for concentration camps (later renamed “internment centers”).
Until a decade ago, the bureau denied any improper role in the internment. Two researchers in 2000 provided so many smoking gun documents that the bureau finally admitted some culpability. But it proudly declared that it had never provided the names and addresses of specific Japanese-Americans to law enforcement or the military.
In 2007, a study by those researchers, William Seltzer of Fordham University and Margo Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, proved that the Census Bureau gave the Secret Service the names and addresses of all persons of Japanese ancestry in the Washington, D.C., area during World War II. The bureau responded by insisting that this was ancient history. While the disclosure may have been dated, the bureau’s deceit lasted for more than 60 years and undermines its credibility. And we do not know how many other census confidentiality violations have yet to surface.