The easiest way to prevent a Census worker from knocking on your door is to fill out your Census online now. But what if you are worried about your privacy? Right now, the biggest threat to your privacy are scammers posing as the Census who can sell your information.
Keep in mind that the Census will never ask for:
• Your Social Security number
• Money or donations
• Anything on behalf of a political party
• Your bank or credit card account numbers
If someone claiming to represent the Census asks for any of those things, you can be sure they are a scammer.
If someone comes to your home for your census you can ask to see their ID where you will find:
• Their photograph
• U.S. Department of Commerce watermark
• An expiration date
But Zita, I don’t want to give anyone my personal information, including the government!
The only information that the Census asks for is your name, age, “sex”, ethnicity, race (optional), address, and if you own the building or not.
There is a big misconception about the content of the Census. The only information that the Census asks for is your name, age, “sex”, ethnicity, race (optional), address, and if you own the building or not.
They will also ask for your phone number in case they need to call about an error on your form. If you do not have an address, there is no need to list one. There is no question about Citizenship status on the Census.
But how do I know that the answers I give on the Census will stay confidential?
Bear with me, I need to tell you a little story first.
After the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the mass incarceration and relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans. A decision that the US Senate later agreed was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." - The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Sorry FDR, ya blew it) And it was US Census data that was used to find people with Japanese ancestry. - Scientific American
After this, Congress knew our Census data needed more protection, and Title 13- Protection of Confidential Information was made into law. Now the Census cannot give out your Census responses to anyone including government agencies like the CIA, FBI, and ICE. When asked if ICE would be able to use Census data, Terri Ann Lowenthal former staff director of the House census oversight subcommittee replied,
"Absolutely not, the Census Bureau by Federal Law is strictly prohibited from sharing your census information with any other agency in government, including immigration and law enforcement," Lowenthal said. "Furthermore, the information you provide to the census bureau cannot be used to harm you or your family for any purpose."
If the Census results are confidential, then how can the data from the Census be public?
Your specific responses to the Census are kept confidential. The fact that I, Zita Riser am 33 years old, and live at my address will be kept private until long after I’m dead in 72 years. But statistics based on my response will be made public. For example, the number of people over the age of 18, or under the age of 65 in Richland County is public information.
But if the Census publishes neighborhood statistics, won’t a computer be able to extrapolate my personal data?
Not anymore. The US 2020 Census will be the first to use modern mathematically guaranteed privacy safeguards to protect the population from privacy threats. If you are interested in how this is possible, check out Minutephysic’s video about how math protects your Census data. Don’t worry- you don’t have to know much math to understand how it works.
This video was made by Minutephysic in collaboration with the US Census Bureau and fact-checked by Census Bureau scientists.
Bonus Privacy Tip:
If you are using a VPN to keep your ID address private, be sure to connect to a server in the US when you fill out your Census. The Census website blocks IPs from foreign countries to prevent fraud.
Make sure you are counted online at My2020Census.gov or by phone from 7 am – 2 am by calling 844-330-2020.
Have additional questions or concerns about the 2020 Census? Give us a call at 803-569-3565 from 9 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday, and a library staff member will help you.