# News American Community Survey - The Gov wants to know

1. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

I am still trying to understand this, but the US Census Bureau is collecting very detailed personal information. I am still trying to understand if it is mandatory. Pattylou got one.

What do you think?

I can understand the need to know how many people actually live in a geographical area in order to apportion representatives according to population, but they Gov is really getting very personal.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
2. May 17, 2006

### Rach3

http://www.census.gov/acs/www/SBasics/What/What1.htm [Broken]

The methodology of this survey is bold and breathtakingly muddled.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
3. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

I don't understand the rationale behind collecting these data. I've heard its for local planning purposes - but that's local and state government. What the heck is the Federal government doing collecting this information?

The fact that it is mandatory - and one HAS to answer the questions!

Talk about snooping into one's private life.

4. May 17, 2006

### syko sykes

"response is mandatory"... that doesn't mean that you have to tell the truth. Also, although that information seems rather intrusive, some part of the government already has most of that information. Between filing taxes, Social Security, etc. etc. there isn't much you're telling them that they don't have.

Also, this is just a survey. Nobody can use any of that information against you in any way, it's just for "statistical purposes" and is "strictly confidential" like Big Brother Sam said.

5. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

I guess I missed where it says it's mandatory, but I didn't search much, it's nothing personal, but it is helpful for community planning.

I would assume the information will be shared with local communities. I have voluntarily participated in similar surveys locally to help with determining needs for transportion, schooling and road expansion. I think this is great.

People are getting WAAAY too paranoid.

6. May 17, 2006

### Art

Ah, but even paranoids have enemies.

7. May 17, 2006

### SOS2008

Looking briefly at the survey, my guess is they want to update stats not only for proper representation, but also property taxes, correlation between income and housing debt as well as health burdens, etc. I think the census is always anonymous, isn't it? And I wonder how an illegal alien will feel about the fine for not responding...

One thing they will see is new disparity in many regions. For example, Arizona is a "right to work state" (no unions) and is one of only three or four states in the entire nation that does not have its own minimum wage established (above the federal minimum). Add to that the illegal population now estimated at 35 percent. Aside from nationwide inflation in education, health care, and energy, housing in Arizona is now out of reach for most people, and I understand the large number of apartment-to-condo conversions will result in increased rent. If pay does not keep pace in states like Arizona, combined with an increased tax burden, the effects will soon be seen.

8. May 17, 2006

### Cyrus

Astonuc, you do not have to give them an answer. If I recall correctly, all you have to tell them is how many people live there. You have the right to tell them to leave, even if they threat to come back with a police officer. I'd tell them to get lost, or they can talk to your lawyer.

9. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

You know, some of the surveys are for the good. It helps to point out problems.

I have a friend that has studied old census reports and it's fascinating.

10. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

We did the census form in 2000. I haven't seen the ACS.

I don't have a particular problem with it, except for the details on mortgage, second mortgage, insurance, . . . . , interest income. It does seem unnecessarily intrusive. Would it not suffice to simply ask "Do you own or rent the home?"

I rent office at an Architect/Engineering firm that does a lot of the land development in the area, and I have been heavily involved in planning issues. The Federal government is always very indirectly invovled, because the Federal money goes to state and local governments.

The local governments and states do use census data to develop the demographics of the area. I have seen details, but not personal financial information.

I agree. I have used such data, and it is fascinating, especially when taken over several decades.

Last edited: May 17, 2006
11. May 17, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

You don't have to answer what you're not comfortable in disclosing, I guess they want to see if people are living beyond their means in some areas. But I wouldn't say they need to know that. They're always going to ask for more than they expect.

But they have that information through tax returns.

12. May 17, 2006

### Pengwuino

13. May 17, 2006

### loseyourname

Staff Emeritus
These are exactly the same questions from the old long form. They're completely full of crap to act like this is a "reengineering" of the Census, unless they've simply changed the way they do the sampling. The old long form was sent to every 6th household, with the sequence chosen randomly.

Edit: Never mind. Looking at, it's pretty obvious what was changed. These are the same questions from the long form, but this will be administered every year, instead of every ten years. The information is used mainly in allocating federal funds.

Also, apparently you already could be fined for refusing of neglecting to answer the Census questionnaire. The amendment here raises the fine from not more than $100 to not more than$5000. I have no wonder if anyone has ever actually been fined for this, though. When I was an enumerator in 2000, we were told to be persistent, but that was all. We weren't even told that people could be fined. We were instructed to tell people the law said they had to fill out the form, but if they refused, there wasn't much we could do. We were not law enforcement.

Last edited: May 18, 2006
14. May 18, 2006

### edward

Whether this turns out to be good or bad depends on how and by whom the information is used. It has the potential to be totally missused.

In recent years I tend to be suspicious of anything new that the federal govenment does. To me this has NSA and "connecting the dots" written in the fine print.

As for the mandatory part, it definitely is, even to the point of fines for not answering all questions.

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_db/commentary.asp?record_id=299

I don't know whether the Rutherford institute is a buch of whackos or not, but they have been involved in some high profile "personal freedom" cases.

15. May 18, 2006

Evo, not that anyones getting paranoid, but this line thats supposed to reassure us "Any Census Bureau employee who violates these provisions is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years, or both." Leaves out the NSA, CIA, and the FBI (not that you should worry over that if you are clean.) With the massive data trolling thats being used on citizens I would be apprehensive about the misuse or misintentions of them getting personal data. 16. May 18, 2006 ### Pengwuino Yah, the CIA and NSA really need to know whether or not you've had any substantial rental income in the last 12 months. Give me a break 17. May 18, 2006 ### moose ........... ok? How could you misuse this data? 18. May 18, 2006 ### edward OK leaving out the federal security agencies, marketing companies could have a field day with this type of information. The laws allowing for federal surveys were passed in the 1950's, but were never used. In the late 90's when the survey was proposed to be an in depth random sampling of information that would be less expensive than the census, there was opposition from the political right. As you can see below the Vice Chair of the Committee on Government Reform questioned the legality of the survey in 2002. http://www.gao.gov/decisions/other/289852.htm Whenever the Federal govenment pulls some little known 50 year old laws out of the hat all of a sudden it is not about saving money. Ironically the FBI, CIA and NSA would be foolish if they didn't use the information from this survey. That is why I mentioned in a previous post that they would be doing some "connecting the dots" with this information in the same way they are using telephone records. Also note that the use of the American Community Survey did not get off the launch pad until after 9/11. 19. May 18, 2006 ### edward Hmm so how do they plan to survey the 12 million illegals? For the most part the questions below seem to aimed at ethnic origins. Will these people actually answer the questions? Is the survey in Spanish? Arrgg I have given myself a self inflicted headache. http://www.prb.org/Template.cfm?Section=PRB&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13276 [Broken] Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017 20. May 19, 2006 ### SOS2008 This is originally from an MSNBC article dated 2001 (@ http://www.msnbc.com/news/530646.asp [/URL]): [QUOTE]In a corner of the U.S. Census Bureau, a small group of statisticians has been sweating out the agency’s nightmare scenario: “re-identification.” That’s the term for a technique the bureau fears could allow marketers and other “intruders” to match anonymous census information with the names of the people who provided it. Such a concern is largely theoretical so far. ---------- Confidentiality is key at the Census Bureau, since almost no one would participate in the great decennial inquisition without it. But ensuring anonymity is increasingly difficult in the age of the Internet and computer databases that contain millions of customer-purchase records and other information. The Census Bureau doesn’t publicize it, but two years ago one of its own statisticians began warning that increasingly powerful computers could make it possible for outsiders to glean personally identified information from census data. ---------- The bureau for decades has engaged in a little-known technique called “data swapping,” in which a few key pieces of information about one person are switched with those of another person with a similar background living nearby. For example, to mask a data file containing the ages and incomes of six people, researchers would randomly rearrange the income levels so that within one census block, a 21-year-old originally listed as making$20,000 is now listed as making $15,000, while a 50-year old making$15,000 is now listed as making \$20,000. The process allows researchers to continue to draw valid observations from the file, since the swapping doesn’t change the totals for each data column within a census block.

Since 1990, government statisticians also have added distortion techniques known as “random noise” and “coarsening” to further confuse things. These involve slightly altering a number, such as income level, upward or downward and offsetting it by moving another number in the opposite direction. The trick is to blur the information without making it invalid for the kind of analysis for which the census is designed. Yet in some cases, “users have found this extremely irritating and unacceptable,” one Census Bureau researcher noted in a recent paper.
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Mr. Winkler, whose 1998 paper was commissioned by the bureau to test its security, and other statisticians believe that masked data can be at least partially deconstructed by matching it against demographic data now easily accessible on the Internet, such as estimated income levels and home values.

“There is an increased concern because of the amount of data that may now be publicly available on the Web that perhaps wasn’t there years ago,” says Laura Zayatz, who heads a four-person division within the Census Bureau called the Disclosure Limitation Group. “In response to that, we are ending up with less detail in our public microdata files than was there 10 years ago.” But even with the new precautions, Ms. Zayatz says she has no way to be certain this year’s census data isn’t vulnerable to re-identification.
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The re-identification process is highly complex and doesn’t have a high yield: In a Census Bureau test, only 10 percent of survey participants could be re-identified. But that is enough for the bureau to be concerned.

“I think many people feel they could probably obtain information easier from some other source than trying to obtain it from a census file,” says the bureau’s Ms. Zayatz, “but we’re still very protective.”[/QUOTE][PLAIN]http://www.theexperiment.org/articles_printer.php?news_id=1156 [Broken]

Organizations that could have the access and technology would be a government agency such as the NSA. But if the yield is low, I doubt the resources needed would be worth it.

Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017