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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

Will Your Answers To the Census Stay Private? 902

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the depends-how-you-define-private dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "James Bovard writes in the Christian Science Monitor that Americans are told that information gathered in the census will never be used against them and 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's report helped the US Army round up more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans for concentration camps (later renamed 'internment centers'). In 2003-04, the Census Bureau provided the Department of Homeland Security with a massive cache of information on how many Arab Americans lived in each ZIP Code around the nation, and which country they originated from — information that could have made it far easier to carry out the type of mass roundup that some conservatives advocated. 'Instead of viewing census critics as conspiracy theorists, the nation's political leaders should recognize how their policies have undermined public faith in government,' writes Bovard. 'All the census really needs to know is how many people live at each address. Citizens should refuse to answer any census question except for the number of residents.'"
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Will Your Answers To the Census Stay Private?

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  • first post? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 2obvious4u (871996) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:49AM (#31610596)
    White Male, 30
    I don't have anything to worry about right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaHat (247651)

      1x American here

    • Re:first post? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:02AM (#31610830)

      White Male, 30
      I don't have anything to worry about right?

      Depends. Are you communist, libertarian, atheist, gun-clinging fundamentalist Christian, or Irish?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Libertarian, 2nd Amendment Loving, Fundamentalist (but not xian), Mostly Northern European Mutt Mix.

        I'm Libertarian, because I don't want people telling me what gun I can or cannot own, What religion I can or cannot belong to, and my heritage is such a mix I have no allegiance to any nationality except Constitutional US of A (which has long since been whittled away).

        I don't like big government, big corporations, and big unions. I don't like people who make policies based on things like race, color, creed, p

    • Re:first post? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:11AM (#31610978) Journal

      I think the submitter is worrying about the wrong thing.

      The answers could have remained private (as in remained within the Government), but the Japanese-Americans still rounded up.

      It's not great comfort when the general public, criminals and Corporations don't have access to your census info, but the Government still kicks in your door at 3am and bundles you away just because you happened to have filled in the "race" field with the "wrong race of the day".

      Race: Pikes Peak Hill Climb :).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exdUD02JryI [youtube.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sjames (1099)

      RUNNER!

  • I agree (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:49AM (#31610606) Journal

    And the fact that Glenn Beck has said the same thing makes me feel dirty. Ugh.

    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:01AM (#31610818) Homepage Journal

      Same here. But he said not to answer the race question because liberals value minority lives over white lives.

      • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:26AM (#31611264) Journal

        Honestly, I can't see any other reason for collection of this data. The government should be 100% color blind. Why collect race data unless you plan to give one race(doesn't matter which) preferential treatment? If you don't plan on providing differential services based on race, why would you care what my race is?

        Someone explain this to me. Please.

        • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

          by LordKazan (558383) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:42AM (#31611578) Homepage Journal

          Ever heard of a white person with Sickle-Cell Anemia? (yes i know it can happen, not very likely)
          How about a black person with melanoma? (yes i know it can happen, not very likely)

          Just because you don't know the beneficial to harmless uses of the data doesn't mean it must be "omg bad!".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by characterZer0 (138196)

        Same here. But he said not to answer the race question because liberals value minority lives over white lives.

        Politicians value those who vote for them over those who do not.

        Liberal politicians value liberal voters over conservative voters.

        Statistically, minorities are more likely to be liberal and whites more likely to be conservative.

        Liberal politicians value minorities over whites.

        Do you really think the politicians care if those who do not vote for them are alive or not?

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:50AM (#31610618) Homepage

    I no longer expect any privacy from my government. I want it, and I think it's fucked up that I don't have it...but I no longer expect it.

    What the hell has happend to us as a country? Has it always been this fucked and we just have the means to know about it now? Or were things truly better back int he day?

    • by Itninja (937614) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:08AM (#31610938) Homepage

      Has it always been this fucked and we just have the means to know about it now? Or were things truly better back int he day?

      Yes. Yes it has. As have all countries, everywhere, since the dawn of man. The only real difference now is information flows faster than ever before in history. So the general populace is aware of all the f'ed up stuff much, much faster. In the past it could take months, if not years or even decades, for this information to reach the ears of the people.

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:10AM (#31610958) Homepage Journal

      I agree. I think we actually had more privacy in the past only from a practical point of view. Before computers, and back when the government couldn't afford massive buildings full of employees, it was simply impossible or impractical to gather much data to be used against us. Today you can have one guy in the CIA decide to gather/analyze data and have thousands of people immediately help.

      So I think privacy rules have gotten stronger, but technology and government size have made privacy weaker.

    • by eples (239989) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:25AM (#31611236)
      Explain to me how your hide your race during day-to-day activities. You consider your race private? Do you wear a blanket over your head all day?
    • by D Ninja (825055) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:34AM (#31611440)

      What the hell has happend to us as a country? Has it always been this fucked and we just have the means to know about it now? Or were things truly better back int he day?

      This quote reminds me of a skit I saw on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart showed various clips of people saying, "Life today is not like it was when I was a kid." Stewart than proceeds to look at each decade and ends up showing that every decade had some screwy problems. As the conclusion, Jon Stewart commented, "So...if all the previous decades were screwed up, what is it that made [those people] say that life was better?" He concludes that it was because those individuals were CHILDREN during those decades. As a child, we're protected from a lot, we don't have critical thinking and reasoning skills that is obtained in early teenager-hood, and we don't have to fend for ourselves (of course, this is not always true for some children, unfortunately).

      So, your statement probably comes from the same spot is my guess. Of course, I don't know how old you are, but my guess is that your "back in the day" involves some time in your early, childhood/teenager years when you really have no worries, no mortgage, no taxes, don't have to worry about your next meal, or whether you'll have a job, haven't been jaded by bad relationships, and your hardest decision is what sugary cereal to eat in the morning.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jellomizer (103300)

        Even if you were not a child, you look back to the past with some blinders and 20/20 hindsight.

        First you have blinders where lot of your daily worries are cleared from your memory and the emotion attached from it is gone. Do I feel Stress about that project I did 10 years ago. No I go back and laugh at it. That and if I go to analyze problems in the past I can go back with much more advanced thought process then I had at the time, As I know how it will end. During the beginning of the Iraq war, Most am

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by characterZer0 (138196)

      What the hell has happend to us as a country?

      The voters voted for lying, deceiving, power-hungry, corrupt crooks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)

      I no longer expect any privacy from my government.

      Pretty sure the US Government (I'm not sure which Government you're under; you didn't specify) never promised you privacy in the first place. You could change that with a Constitutional Amendment, but it wouldn't be easy.

      What the hell has happend to us as a country? Has it always been this fucked and we just have the means to know about it now? Or were things truly better back int he day?

      It's always been fucked, and in fact it's better now than at any time i

  • by guruevi (827432) <(eb.ebucgnikoms) (ta) (ive)> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:51AM (#31610632) Homepage

    I got the census papers. Besides the obvious: what's your name, race and address there are no other questions. I can lie about race if I wanted to because it's saying which race you consider yourself to be part of. I'm not a US citizen, yet I consider myself part of one of the races on the list. If you're afraid you're going to be corralled up, you could do the same thing, say you are "Other" or whatever is closest to your skin color (African-American/Negro (yes that's one of the options on there) for anyone not-white and not-native american)

    All other questions (SSN, birth date, birth place) are not part of the census so if anyone asks they are not acting on behalf of the census office.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Human is a race. Write that in.

  • [ x ] Gun Owner.

    If he's smart enough and fast enough.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:52AM (#31610654)

    The real question is, does it matter? Ok, so census data is kept secure. What about every other form you've filled out that asks the same questions, or similar questions. Or just plain ol Google datamining?

    What difference does it make if this data over here is locked up tight when this same data over here is plastered all over the interwebs?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:53AM (#31610664)

    Of course the government could abuse that information, but what is the record like? Besides 1940, are there any other situations where the data was used to locate an individual? The 2003 situation mentioned is not an abuse. Providing demographic information is standard operating procedure for the Census Bureau, and a lot of good can be done with that information.

    So if 1940 is the only case of census information being used to locate individuals, I'd say their record is pretty good.

    • ...and it did. (Score:3, Insightful)

      So if 1940 is the only case of census information being used to locate individuals, I'd say their record is pretty good.

      1940 is a case where census information was used to round up an entire ethnic population and relocate them and strip them of all belongings despite assurances that census information would remain "private", which I'd say pretty much destroys any credibility of such assurances forever.

      Of all the people counted by the Census over the last century (not including re-counts of same people), tha

  • by Thinine (869482) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:54AM (#31610682)
    Perhaps in 1790 that's all the census needed to know (that and how may slaves you owned), but it's a far different situation now. Socioeconomic and ethnic data is important in determining the types of services various areas need and plays an important part in know just who an "American" really is. As an aside, the census had nothing to do with the Japanese internment during WWII. At most it made calculating the number of Japanese-Americans easier, allowing the round up to be more accurate. Maybe. Given how easy it is to separate people by obvious ethnic ancestry, the round up would have occurred any way. Besides which, it's not as if either of scenarios mentioned in the OP actually provided anything more than numbers. They didn't provide addresses, names, or any actual personal information. Merely the number who marked a certain ethnicity in a certain county. So yes, these people are still just paranoid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Perhaps in 1790 that's all the census needed to know (that and how may slaves you owned), but it's a far different situation now.

      Then amend the constitution to empower the government to collect more than an enumeration.

      • by cmiller173 (641510) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @12:18PM (#31612322)

        Perhaps in 1790 that's all the census needed to know (that and how may slaves you owned), but it's a far different situation now.

        Then amend the constitution to empower the government to collect more than an enumeration.

        Article I Section 2 - The House

        ... The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. ...

        Article I Section 8 - Powers of Congress

        ... To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

      • Per Article 1, Section 2: "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."

        In other words, the government already has the power to ask what they want to ask in the Census. You people who want the Constitution to spell out in detail every activity the government might need to do crack me up. The Constitution is supposed to be an overall guide for r

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm white, but i'll see myself as Hispanic or african-american and record that on the census then, recognize a lower income etc, and anon encourage all the people living in my state to do the same.

      That way we'll get more funding right? Since there will be more "lower income" families in the area, and they'll all be minorities (on paper).

      Not that i'm about to do it... but just a thought....

    • by berashith (222128) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:01AM (#31610826)

      Actually, even Jefferson in the first ever census saw the value in obtaining extra information. He pushed for more than just number of people, although that was the doctrine provided by the constitution. Were his motives pure evil? I doubt it. Government has reasons for what it does, which often conflict with the citizens best interest ( real or perceived ) and has always pushed the limits on every process that has been available, even the super-freedom-loving-and-creating-founding-fathers.

      I gave them my address and number of residents.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:55AM (#31610714)

    What bullshit. The privacy protections regarding census answers were put in place AFTER the Japanese internment camps as a RESPONSE. This summary reads as is those protections were disregarded in that roundup, and then darkly speculates on what could have been after 9/11, if those privacy protections had been disregarded.

    Slashdot isn't far from freerepublic these days, in political leaning or critical thinking.

  • Will your answer to the census stay private?
    Will your health-care premium grow extensively and will the new 'reform' get blamed for it?
    Will the people make assumptions about you based on your 'political association'?
    Will the corporate interest together with the government involvement ensure that the economy finally ends in a total collapse?

    Stay tuned to get the answer to these, and other meaningful questions.

  • by crow (16139) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#31610742) Homepage Journal

    They say that they won't release your information for something like 85 years, but they do release aggregate data. In the 2000 census, there were complaints that it was possible to determine individual answers from the aggregate data because they were releasing data for very small areas. I think it was by Zip+4, which narrows typically narrows it down to fewer than ten houses.

    For me, I'm not concerned about the privacy, but I take offense at being asked to identify as being of a specific race. Whatever happened to the Great American Melting Pot?

  • Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DIplomatic (1759914) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#31610748) Journal
    Refusing to fill out the Census is ridiculous. It is in your own best interest to let the local and national govt. know as much about the people they represent as possible. If they don't know facts about, say, the social and financial background of their constituents, how can they govern effectively?

    To give a hypothetical example, it would be like if you were a neilsen family but refused to fill out info about the tv shows that you liked and then complained when they got canceled.

    • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:23AM (#31611182) Homepage

      Refusing to fill out the Census is ridiculous.

      The quote in the slashdot summary doesn't advocate refusing to fill it out. It advocates not filling anything out other than the number of residents, which is all that's needed in order to determine congressional districts, etc.

      If they don't know facts about, say, the social and financial background of their constituents, how can they govern effectively?

      The slashdot summary is about the use of racial information. The government doesn't need to know what race I consider myself to be in order to govern effectively.

      To give a hypothetical example, it would be like if you were a neilsen family but refused to fill out info about the tv shows that you liked and then complained when they got canceled.

      No, a correct analogy would be if you volunteered to participate int he Neilsen ratings, filled out the information about the TV shows you watched, but refused to give Neilsen any information about your race.

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:58AM (#31610758)
    Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
    -Ayn Rand

    What does this say about America? Read this [huffingtonpost.com] for a good overview of technology's intertwined relationship with the failings of geopolitical advancement of privacy. Basic summary: it isn't technologies fault for privacy lost, its the people who regulate it.

    To quote:
    "The attacks of 9-11 challenged our country in new ways. But perhaps the biggest challenge was whether we would safeguard both our country and our Constitutional heritage or whether we would have weak leaders who were unable to protect the country without sacrificing our freedoms. Regrettably, we found that our political leaders lacked the ability to uphold our laws. For electronic surveillance, they pushed aside the judiciary and asserted the President's authority to intercept the private communications of American citizens within the United States. Even with the broad powers of the Patriot Act, the White House grew impatient and colluded with the telephone companies to disclose private customer records without legal basis or judicial review."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brkello (642429)
      Just because Ayn Rand says something, doesn't make it true. I could say "Civilization is the progress toward a society of openness. The savage's whole existence is private, ruled by its darkest thoughts and back room deals. Civilization is the process of bringing things in to the open so that man can not subject men to tyranny."

      When you have a country/world willing to post all their info online, there is no problem with privacy because no one cares any more. There are plenty of good reasons to want pri
  • Chalk me up for another person who just listed:

    3 Americans live here.

  • by Enry (630) <{ten.agyaw} {ta} {yrne}> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:58AM (#31610764) Journal

    But:

    1) Saying that census data will 'never be used against you' and 'are protected by US privacy laws' is nowhere near the same thing.
    2) The NY Times article about Arab Americans in each ZIP code was using publicly available data from the census. As with medical records, the data used by DHS was deidentified.

    So in the end, I have faith that the answers I give will stay private, though I understand that information that identify me as a community will be available - that's one of the points of the census!

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:00AM (#31610800)

    "Conservatives" wanted to round up arabs? Do you have a single shred of proof for this or are you basically a Truther or Birther at heart, with nothing but paranoia to offer us?

    No-one wanted to "round up arabs" since that would have been stupid and done nothing.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:02AM (#31610834) Homepage Journal

    I didn't give them any information to leak or misuse. The constitutional purpose of the census is to count people, not to figure out who rents vs. who owns their homes, or what their age/race distribution is. So that's what I gave them. A complete and accurate count of the people living in my home.

    Per Title 13, they could fine me $100 for failing to complete the form. I don't think that'll happen, but it's worth $100 to me to stand on the principle.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:04AM (#31610868) Homepage
    It is true that during WWII, the US government abused Census information to detain Japanese.

    But the thing about America is that we FIX problems when we realize that we made a mistake.

    After World War II, American realized what a horrible thing we did with the Census and we changed the laws.

    Now, it is illegal for information from the Census to be given to any other government agency. Specifically:

    Immigration is NOT allowed to get the information.

    The Internal Revenue Service is NOT allowed to get the information.

    FBI and local cops are NOT allowed to get the information.

    I myself am always a bit paranoid about giving out information, but the promisses the US government has given are about as extreme as it is possible to get. It is true that governments can ignore their own laws. But if you won't trust the US government after it wewnt that far to fix the problem you are worried about, then you should leave this country.

    Because if you are concerned about them rounding you up in the future after they change the laws, then you should be more concerned about them rounding you up TODAY for failing to obey the existing laws

  • by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:06AM (#31610892)
    Census data always becomes public... According to this [census.gov] census data becomes public after 72 years. This is an invaluable resource to those tracing their genealogy. I will be filling out my form fully, but then I'm not an illegal immigrant or a terrorist. I could see why someone in those groups would not want to fill it out. But filling them out provides valuable data today for all kinds of things, from predicting how many students will enroll in your public schools to how many representatives you'll have in local, state, and federal elections.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:06AM (#31610904)
    I understand privacy concerns, but I also understand the valuable ways this information is used. Things like trying to figure out the best place to locate infrastructure like schools and VA hospitals. I remember this "debate" from 10 years ago. Now, while you're passively rebelling against your evil government think about what answers you choose to omit from the census and how easily available that info already is.
  • by Petersko (564140) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:07AM (#31610908)
    "The data, from the 2000 census, had already been made public on the agency's Internet site...But the Census Bureau director acknowledged at the meeting that by tabulating and handing over the data...the agency had undermined public trust..."

    So let me get this straight. The data was publicly available, and the Bureau was getting in heat for... sorting it?

    A six year old story about an eight year old NOTHING.

    I routinely waste five minutes of time, but this block I particularly regret.
  • by someones1 (1580023) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:08AM (#31610934)
    As an urban planner, I can say in all honesty that eliminating things like race from the census would be devastating to research processes. There is a lot of super valuable information in the census data when it comes to identifying trends and demographics, and types of services required for certain types of residents, etc. It is terrible that personally identifiable census data has been used in the past to round people up, or create "watch" lists of sorts, but understand that many many other groups and agencies use non-personally identifiable information gained from the census forms to actually do some good for communities. A ridiculous amount of stuff that urban planners do in GIS is with census data, and without it, or with significant amounts of errors, it becomes useless and entirely possible that planning decisions will be made with bad information.
  • "Protected by law" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:15AM (#31611058) Homepage

    And remember this when they say the information is "protected by law": Laws can be changed. (Yeah, I know that sounds obvious, but how many foolish people are assuaged by being told "don't worry, your privacy is protected by law.") They're just words on paper, the government changes them all the time, and most of the time it just breaks them without even bothering to change them.

    Want to protect your privacy? Don't share information. Once it's out there, it's out there.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:17AM (#31611070)

    In the instructions with the census form it says that the information on the form cannot be used in a court of law. However, at the same time it says that completing the form is required by law.

    So the obvious question is, if the form cannot be used as evidence, how can they prove that I did not complete it?

    Either the law is not enforceable, or they are lying when they say it cannot be used as evidence.

  • Not this again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:21AM (#31611144) Homepage

    This is the third census I've participated in as an adult, and the fourth for which I was old enough to pay attention to the media/hype around it. And in each and every one, wingnuts from all over the political spectrum have crawled out from under their respective rocks and foamed at the mouth over the government intrusion into private lives.

    Give it rest guys. Your claims don't stand up to a moments dispassionate scrutiny. The interment camps were nearly seventy years ago. We've learned since then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mab_Mass (903149)

      Give it rest guys. Your claims don't stand up to a moments dispassionate scrutiny. The interment camps were nearly seventy years ago. We've learned since then.

      Let's hope you're right. Personally, I still wonder if one of the reasons that it hasn't happened since is that there hasn't been the same scale of war since then.

  • Privacy Act of 1974 (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:29AM (#31611320) Homepage

    Yeah, we did a lot of crazy things in the 40's. Misuse of census data, treatment of japanese americans, tuskegee airmen.

    What the @ssholes who are spouting this propaganda forget is there ARE privacy laws in place to prevent misuse of data.

    It IS illegal to do now in ways it WASN'T then.

  • I'm an Immigrant (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@uberm00. n e t> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @12:04PM (#31612036) Homepage Journal

    Uncle Sam already knows this and much, much, much more about me.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @12:33PM (#31612592) Homepage Journal

    Will Your Answers To the Census Stay Private?

    No.

    --- Captain Obvious

  • by rssrss (686344) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:01PM (#31613144)

    The constitution authorizes the Federal government to conduct a decennial enumeration of the people, but it also forbids racial classification of the American People. The Census Bureau has allocated one-quarter of the space on this year's census form to questions about race and ethnicity, which if not unconstitutional, are clearly contrary to its spirit.

    Question 9 on the census form asks "What is Person 1's race?" (and so on, for other members of the household).

    I will answer Question 9 by checking the last option -- "Some other race" -- and writing in "American." It is a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for me as an ordinary citizens to object to unconstitutional racial classification schemes.

    "American," was counted by the Census Bureau when it reported the results of the 2000 census. In fact, the number of people answering "American" grew from 12.4 million in the 1990 census to 20.2 million in 2000, "the largest numerical growth of any ancestry group," according to Wikipedia. "American" was the most common answer to that question on the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

    It is a violation of the law to lie or to not answer a question on the census form, that is why I will answer question 9 with "American". Some people maybe tempted to check an inapplicable box. But lying in this constitutionally mandated process is wrong. Really -- don't do it.

    If you are not a member of an enrolled tribe, don't check Native American -- they won't count it.
    Cutesy answers such as "human" or 100 Yard Dash will not be counted by the Census Bureau.

    So remember: Question 9 -- "Some other race" -- "American". Pass it on.
    If you are hassled about answering American by the census bureaucrats or the ACORN minion who comes to your door, you have legal support for your answer:

    "In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American."

    Justice Scalia, concurring in Adarand Constructors v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995).

  • One word: FRAUD (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eric Green (627) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:29PM (#31617072) Homepage
    The first U.S. Congress debated furiously over what questions would be asked on the first 1790 Census. Some members wanted to ask detailed questions about housing and wealth. Others wanted a simple count. In the end, one word kept coming up over and over again: FRAUD. The Census would be used to divvy up the House of Representatives, and would also be used to apportion taxes amongst the states. So there was big money involved, and much incentive to overcount or undercount.

    In the end, the first U.S. Congress decided on one central principal of that first census: VERIFIABILITY. Each household would be associated with a specific district or ward. Each household would be identified by the name of its head of household. Each household would be thus be able to be visited by Census Bureau verifiers who could verify that the census as reported by the local judicial district was actually accurate. If the roster you got back from the 3rd Ward of Virginia said there was a Howard Mathers in district 3 who had one male, one female, and two children living in his household, you could go to district 3, ask around for Howard Mathers, and verify that he actually had four people living in his household.

    The 1850 Census occurred at a time when representation was especially important because the South had already made secession threats and was threatening to inflate their Census counts in order to gain more representation in Congress. In addition, the population had grown such that it was possible for there to be two heads of households with the same name in a judicial district. So the 1850 Census was the first to require not only the name of the head of household, but the names and ages of all members of a household too, which allowed Census workers to uniquely identify which of the households headed by Howard Mathers that they were actually talking to. Census Bureau checkers could then come behind and not only locate the Howard Mathers who had five children listed below his name (as vs. the childless Howard Mathers), but if Howard replied that he only had four children, they could verify which of the children was missing and ask, "What about Jeffie?" At which point Howard says, "Never heard of him", or Howard says, "Oh, yeah, I forgot, he hadn't moved out yet then," or Howard says, "He was living with Aunt Mahoney over in the 5th ward at the time" and the verifier can then update the count accordingly.

    So that, in a nutshell, is why the Census has asked for at least the name of the head of household ever since the very first census in 1790 -- it's all about verifiability.

    Disclaimer: I worked for the Census Bureau as a contract verifier in 1995 during the Census Test that was validating the forms and procedures to be used during the 2000 Census. And yes, I did find inaccurate data in places, generally from people the original census takers could not find or the original census takers misread an address and put one family at an address they didn't live at while missing the family who actually lived in that address. Verifiability allowed us to correct these errors. Without verifiability, you're stuck with the same nonsense that is computerized electronic voting, where you can never validate that the data actually corresponds to real physical people rather than just being an artifact of computer bugs or hacking...

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

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