Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You wanna know what!?!?

Hello everyone. This farm update will be a bit different. We recently received a survey from the US Census Bureau entitled "The American Community Survey" - now this is something I had never heard of before but, being it is a Census year, opened it up for a look. This "anonymous" survey starts out with the Census-required number of occupants and quickly delves into some incredibly disturbing questions. Like what, you may ask. In addition to questions (to the anonymous survey, remember) of name, age, address, DOB, phone number, ethnic origin, marital status, and sex, there's:

(Numbers are actual question numbers from the form).

(7a) How many separate rooms are in this house, apartment, or mobile home?
(7b) How many are bedrooms?

(9) How many automobiles are kept at home for use by members of this household?

(11a) What was your electric bill last month?
(11b) What was your gas bill last month?

(16) What do you think this house and lot would sell for if it were for sale?

(18a-c) (Paraphrased) Do you have mental or emotional problems? Have problems with stairs? Difficulty dressing or bathing?

(30) Where did you work last week? With street address.

(31) How did you get to work?

(33) What time did this person usually leave home to go to work last week?

(47a-h) How much money did you make last year? And from what sources?

So, you've asked me questions about my net worth, income, and when I leave for work and how many hours I work (I left that one out, sorry). Isn't this information that burglars need to know? And you want me to give it to temporary employees that make 10 or so dollars an hour?

I won't even go into details about the 243 laptops the Census Bureau has lost and how people have had their personal information "accidentally" posted on government websites repeatedly. Or how Scientific American recently revealed that "confidential" Census information was used to identify Japanese-Americans who were later interred during WWII. Or that Homeland Security has admitted using the (once again, "confidential") information for profiling Americans of Arab ancestry for profiling during Bush's "war on terror."

I also can't help but notice that some of the questions are part of the public record: How much is my house worth? Ask the tax assessor. How many cars do we have? Ask the BMV. How much money did we make? Ask the IRS. Where do we work? Once again, ask the IRS for W-2s. The other information is none of your business.

So, this 28 page form is supposed to be mailed out to 3 million homes annually on a rolling basis (at a cost of $120-$150 million/yr from the GAO). And it will enable (according to the handy-dandy pamphlet that comes along with it) "your community leaders from government, BUSINESS, and non-profit organizations to plan more effectively. Since when is it the American taxpayer's job to subsidize market research for businesses?

And if they are just using this information anonymously, why do they need your name, age, DOB, and PLACE OF BIRTH?

The Constitution (does anyone even remember it exists) allows for a decennial ENUMERATION of the population for congressional redistricting and apportionment. THAT IS ALL.

So, I have a couple of other questions: Why has it been around since 2003 and yet no one seems to have heard about it? Could it be that if they asked all of us these questions at the same time, we would assemble with our family and co-workers and decide that we weren't going to answer such intrusive questions?

And if it such a neighborly questionnaire (American Community Survey certainly seems benign, doesn't it?), why are you threatened with a fine for failure to comply? This is all a bit too "Big Brother" for me, (and yes Dad, I know they know when I brush my teeth, probably and what toothpaste I use) and we refuse to roll over and willingly cede our Right to Privacy. We are not "data sets." We are human beings and American Citizens!

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