Census 2010: I Feel Violated
I feel violated. I don't want to complete it and send it in, but my friends tell me a census taker will come knocking on my door asking me questions. I could get fined. I'm not sure what's worse. And doesn't the government feel ridiculous that it can't even get its act together and gather the information from databases that already exist rather than spend billions of dollars?
Privacy groups don't seem worried that the U.S. government is collecting all this data on us, yet on Thursday three consumer protection organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission demanding the commission investigate growing privacy threats online.
The group says "recent developments in online profiling and behavioral targeting" have contributed to "a veritable 'Wild West' of data collection."
So my census form sits on the desk next to my computer. In fact, I'm glancing down at form as I type this post. Page one reads: "The Census must count every person living in the United States on April 1, 2010." That must mean I'm late mailing back the form.
I don't like giving away personally identifiable information. There have been many scams, I'm told, so it makes me a little nervous. I'm told not to give it away online, so why should I fill out this form and mail it into the government? Shouldn't they have this information already in my taxes, somewhere?
Google knows more about me than the questions I'm asked to answer in the form, but the Mountain View, Calif., search engine collects it from me in a noncontiguous way.
I think the questions on the U.S. Census 2010 form are worse than visiting a Web site, browsing through the merchandise, clicking a few items into the virtual shopping cart and closing the Web browser before I pay for the merchandise -- only to get a retargeting email a few days reminding me I left goods in the cart. Do I still want them, the email asks me.
I'm told that the form never asks for money, bank information, or a Social Security number. It will ask for your full name, date of birth and a phone number. It will also ask for your race, and if you put down more than yourself living in the home, it will ask you the relationship to the other person. Why on earth does the U.S. Census Bureau need to know that?
I can understand why the government might need your name, gender and age. They might need to know the ages of people living in your home to plan for adequate teachers, schools and retirement homes in the community.
I don't mind telling the government that I live in a house rather than an apartment. Or that I'm female. I don't even mind telling the government how old I am. I do mind telling the government my birth date.
Facebook doesn't even know my real date of birth. Every year when that day in my Facebook profile rolls around, I get emails from friends filled with well wishes. And every year I have to follow up with the well wishers by sending an email to tell them I don't list my real birth date in social network profiles.
Others were bothered by the questions from the Census Bureau, too. For example, my mother, and my next-door neighbor, who works as a homicide detective for the Los Angeles Sheriff's department. I have a friend in Newport Beach, Calif., who received two census forms before he filled his out and sent it in.
How is it that I don't mind being targeted online, but I do mind filling out the 2010 Census Form?