by Bill Zechman
How secure is your personal census information?
Not even the “U.S. Department of Justice, the President or the IRS” can access your answers to the Census 2020 questionnaire, Gabe Powell assured Rotarians in a recent meeting.
Powell, a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau, related the historical episode in which his agency, a division of the U.S. Commerce Department, refused to divulge information to the Secret Service.
Addressing the Rotary Club of McMinnville, the speaker rebutted popular myths about the potential misuse of private information given to the Census. He emphasized that long-standing federal law places strict limits of the use of Census date and imposes harsh penalties for violations.
The Census, due to roll out to the public in March and April next year, is “safe, secure and confidential … and easy to complete,” Powell said. “We go to extreme lengths” to ensure information security, with cyber-protection measures that include the deliberate introduction of “noise” into the collected data to frustrate unauthorized extraction of respondents’ information.
Describing the “easy to complete” virtue of the census form, he noted there will be only nine
questions and all are “incredibly simple.” Those who wish to respond by phone, Census 2020 callers can use any of more than a dozen languages.
Communities and individuals benefit from a complete, accurate headcount because federal funds and benefits are often returned to localities based on population, Powell explained. An under-count could cost a locality many thousands, even millions, of dollars for health, education, highways and public safety.
The decennial census also gives a direct boost to the economy as the agency needs to hire some “500,000 enumerators and supervisors” nationwide, Powell remarked.
Entry-level jobs pay about $14 per hour plus 58 cents per mile. While the jobs are temporary, the work hours can be very flexible, the Rotary speaker said.