Government Data Mining Right Under Your Nose – The American Community Survey
Have you received one of these in the mail?
Every month, some 250,000 households find one of these envelopes in their mailbox. It's the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. And by the way, it's not optional.
Despite the flowery language in the pamphlet that accompanies the survey, it's for all intents and purposes, data mining. The frequently asked questions portion of the information claims you will "benefit" by filling out the several dozen pages. It reads:
"Communities need data about the well-being of children, families and the older population to provide services to them. By responding to the American Community Questionnaire, you are helping your community to establish goals, identify problems and solutions and measure the performance of programs."
But when you see some of the questions, it becomes clear that it's intrusive, invasive and disturbing. Here's what's inside of the "survey" as reported by the Washington Times:
'In the section on housing they want to know details about your property, how many rooms you have, whether you have a mortgage and how much it is, what types of energy you use and how much it costs, how many cars you own, what your property taxes are, how much your property is worth, the size of your lot … and on and on."
And it gets better from there:
"And that’s just the beginning. For each person in the house it demands to know educational history, ethnic composition, where they lived a year ago, what sort of health insurance they have, what hearing difficulties, what vision problems; whether they have difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions due to physical, mental or emotional condition; difficulty walking or climbing stairs; difficulty dressing or bathing; difficulty doing errands such as shopping due to physical, mental or emotional condition; marital status; complete marital history, how many spouses, when; children and grandchildren; information on disabilities; employment info, where, when, and two whole pages of work and income inquiry."
WLS-ABC TV in Chicago recently did a story about the ACS, and discovered that while Congress did pass legislation requiring Americans to fill out and return the survey, the Census laws themselves only require one every ten years. The ACS is actually, best as we can tell, a spin off from the actual Census, but the need for these intrusive questions is puzzling.
A search of the American Community Survey reveals tens of thousands of comments and stories posted on news items about people who refused to take it, and subsequently received phone calls and visits at home from census workers. Many argue the Constitution and 4th Amendment (protecting against unreasonable search and seizure) supersede the Congressional action. Congress actually approved the beginnings of such data mining some 20 years ago, but only lately has it accelerated and expanded.
By the way, the literature claims is mandatory, and not filling it out is punishable by a $5,000 fine, but the actual law says that's only for a crime committed related to the census procedure. The actual fine is $500, but the Census Bureau, according to WLS-ABC TV, says they haven't actually prosecuted anyone yet.
While the surveys say they are sent by address only and not by specific name, it's not too difficult to figure out that the data given in the survey, tied to the address, can quickly be linked to a person's actual identity.
Would YOU fill this out if it came in your mail?