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The 2010 census is taking a picture. Keep your eyes open!

The 2010 census is taking a picture. Keep your eyes open!

(Privacy, Scams, Everything Else) Permanent link

By now we have all seen the attention-grabbing U.S. census commercials that first aired during the last Super Bowl. Developed by this blogger’s all-time favorite director Christopher Guest - creator of such American classics as “A Mighty Wind”, “Best in Show” and “This is Spinal Tap” – the spots feature most of the genius comedic actors from the films. They’re preparing for a massive project called “A Snapshot of America” much in the same way producers and directors prepare for a gargantuan budget summer blockbuster. While in the commercials they’re absurdly trying to plan how to literally capture all 300 million Americans on film, the idea is essentially what the census is – taking a snapshot of America.


At the end of every decade to plan for the next, the federal government has 10 questions for every American. While the questions are simply answered (not to mention required by federal law), their importance cannot be overstated. Using the data collected from the 2010 census, over $400 billion in federal funds will be allocated to communities across the country for such things as hospitals, schools, emergency services, and public works projects. To place the cherry on top of this significant sundae, the final tallies also determine how many seats Washington state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives starting with the 2012 midterm elections. 

As Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves describes it, “It's one of the shortest forms in our lifetime with just 10 questions very much like the questions James Madison and Thomas Jefferson helped craft on the very first census.”

Pretty important stuff for just answering 10 simple questions, right? Most would agree. Well, with the first part of that sentence at least.

Now more than ever, people are particularly guarded about their personal information. Given the epidemic-like presence of identity theft, this is understandable. So even though there is a general consensus, as it were, regarding the benefits the census can have for our communities, the process itself is met by many with some reservation. 

The chief concern for many lies with the census takers going door to door collecting information from those who have not yet returned the questionnaire. Like all census employees, they are governed by the strictest of protocols. Census takers swear under oath to keep gathered information private under Federal Law Title 13, a violation of which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. On top of this, any and all information gathered by the census is confidential for 72 years. Not even the commander in chief can look at it. 

But how do you know the person knocking on your door is really with the census? Census takers are required by law to clearly present their ID badge adorned with the U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and their name. While the badge does not include their photo, the respondent can confirm a census worker by calling the number on the Notice of Confidentiality that is given prior to the survey.

Other potential fraudulent activities to be aware of:

  • The Census Bureau does NOT conduct the 2010 census via the Internet.
  • The Census Bureau does NOT send e-mails regarding the 2010 census. Should you receive an e-mail that claims to be from the census, do not open any attachments as they may infect your computer and forward immediately to
  • The Census Bureau will NEVER:
    • Ask for your Social Security number.
    • Ask for money or a donation.
    • Send requests on behalf of a political party.
    • Request PIN codes, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

At the end of the day, the best and by far the most efficient way to participate in the 2010 census is to simply take a moment to completely fill out the questionnaire and return it in the prepaid envelope. Not only does it makes any potential further contact more easily identified as fraud, but as Groves explained, “It costs the government just 42 cents for a postage paid envelope when a household mails back the form. It costs $57 to send a census taker door-to-door to follow up with each household that fails to respond.”

This is a huge project, people. It’ll take everyone’s help to get a good, clear picture of 300 million people. 

Say cheese! 

-- By Darius Schwarz, AGO Public Affairs Intern


Posted by Kristin Alexander All Consuming Blog Moderator at 03/30/2010 01:49:15 PM | 

Confidental? Tell that to Japanese citizens they interned
during World War II
Posted by: Jim Kimball ( Email ) at 3/30/2010 2:38 PM

WHY do I keep getting calls from the "Census Bureau" to confim what I already completed? IF I did not complete your "shortest" 10 question form then I would expect a call or visit. BUT I COMPLETED IT. Now Census is calling almost daily and charging up my min. used on my cell phone. They tried to threaten me with the "it is the law" for me to answer. I ALREADY FILLED OUT THE SIMPLE FORM. Is this necessary or legal? WHY do you need to review what I already sent in. I just want to stop being harassed please. [BLOG MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Julie, you should contact the Census bureau directly to inquire whether these calls are legitimate or part of a scam. Got to to find out whether the call is legitimate. I'll send you the direct (and longer link) by email.]
Posted by: Julie ( Email ) at 6/16/2010 5:49 PM

[BLOG MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Victoria, you should contact the Census bureau directly with concerns. Our office does not have authority in this regard.]

On my census, I filled out my name, the number and sex of members in my house and mailed it back in. The census last week has come to my door stating they did not get my census, I mailed it, I answered the same questions I filled out. TODAY the census went to my neighbors house to get the info. Not all of the questions on the census are constitutional unless they are listed as OMB which they are not. What right does the census have to question my neighbors and deny my sending it in? This feels like harrassment to me. I also included this with my returned census:
Declaration To Make To Census Takers:

"I hereby affirm that the provisions of Title 13 ....requiring me to disclose my race, personal financial data, birth date, or any other personal,
private information to the Bureau of the Census, an agency of the United States government, constitutes an unreasonable, unwarranted search of my person, house, papers, and/or effects, and a governmental invasion of the sanctity of my home and the privacies of life. As such, these provisions violate the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, and are thus wholly void and I am not bound to obey them.

I have completed the only those sections of the Census form pertaining to the Constitutionally-mandated actual enumeration, as follows:

1. The actual number of people living at the address printed on the form, excluding untaxed Native Americans;
2. Age of each person in accordance with US Const. Amendment XIV, Section 2;
3. Sex of each person, in accordance with US Const. Amendment XIV, Section 2.

I have thus fulfilled my obligation to the attainment of the actual enumeration of the populace of the United States.

Any fine or other sanction that is levied by any office or organization stemming from the unconstitutional provisions of Title 13 in connection with my response to this or any other Census-related questioning will be challenged in a court of law."

I have no problem with what I am suppose to do legally, but I do have a problem with the government sending spies out to question my neighbors. This sounds like Nazi Germany. How can we ever trust our govenment when it behaves in such a manner???????
Thank you for your response.
Posted by: Victoria Gideon ( Email ) at 7/21/2010 10:24 PM

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