Back in 2006, CB was ready to roll out the American Community Survey after almost a decade of fiddling around with the program.  In order for any Federal agency to maintain databases with PII (personally-identifiable information), the Privacy Act requires a Federal Register notice outlining the purpose, scope, and protections for each PII database.  The full notice can be viewed here

However, this notice exposes the deficencies of the ACS database.  The Privacy Act requires that databases containing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) use an identifier that is separate from any PII to maintain the data.  Contrary to statutory requirements, the ACS Privacy Act notice clearly states that the ACS database will maintained by NAME and ADDRESS.  Additionally, there are no restrictions on the computers, cds, portable drives, etc. on which ACS data is stored.  This means ACS data could be on any computer with internet or wireless capabilities, unencrypted cds or portable drives, cloud accessible computers, etc.

If you aren’t scared now, you have never been a victim of id-theft, or have never worked with secured data.  I have.  The holes in this system you could pilot the space shuttle (if we had any operational ones left) through.  There have already been multiple thefts of Census Bureau notebooks & drives, and postings of ACS data on PUBLIC websites by employees.

“Your data is secure.”  Yeah, and I’ve got a bridge in some swampland that’s selling cheap as well. 

The data is IN NO WAY secure.  Unless Census starts taking PII security seriously, no sane person would ever fill this form out.  Look, I’m actually not an IT security person, but I do understand the difference between secure and unsecured data.  I can also find no evidence of who can look at or manage the PII data– Census Bureau FTEs only?  Contractors with security clearances?  Do the ACS employees have HSPD12 (cleared) credentials?  Their laptops seem to be wireless– what kind of connections are they running?  What kind of security does the data they do get in the field have, if any?

Again, just don’t even play.  This is identity theft waiting to happen.




The upshot of my Section 141 analysis is that CB has exceeded its statutory authority in its de-facto substitution of a “special survey” for THE decennial census long form.  CB has stated that the ACS does *not* help them to gather data for updating Congressional districts/representation– which is the sole purpose for the decennial census.  Nothing in Section 141 allows for this.

However, let’s continue to look at the other two sections CB uses to force citizens and legal residents to answer questions about their private lives.  

Title 13, Subchapter 5, Section 193 (13 USC Sec. 193)reads in its entirety: 

“In advance of, in conjunction with, or after the taking of each census provided for by this chapter, the Secretary may make surveys and collect such preliminary and supplementary statistics related to the main topic of the census as are necessary to the initiation, taking, or completion thereof.”

  • Well.  Now that the ACS is now viewed by the CB as “replacing” the decennial census long form, how can we interpret CB’s citation of this section as one of the ACS authorities?  Does this simply allow CB to follow up with anything they feel needs “clarification?”  Additional PII mining, or more even more intrusive surveys?  Where does it end?  However, in view of the ACS exceeding the provision of Section 141, all these additional surveys when based on the ACS would also not be covered under this section. 

Title 13, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, Section 221 (13 USC Sec. 221) reads:

“(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100.
(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no person shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious beliefs or to membership in a religious body.”  [emphasis added]
  • Here we go, kids.  Once all the little clauses are stripped from the language, the plain meaning of the text of paragraphs a) and b) are that:  1)  Failure to answer any of the questions results in a fine of not more than $100; and 2) Giving false answers results in a fine of not more than $500.  Unless there is clarification in the legislative history, it would appear that $100 is the maximum fine for failure to respond.  The language simply does NOT read “per question.”  The section is ambiguous enough that this point could be easily argued.  Paragraph b) has the same problem.  Giving a false answer to a ACS question is definitely a less desirable route than simply a non-response.  Given this situation, it is very intriguing that CB supervisors (in the few MSM stories that can be found on the subject) have actually encouraged people to put down made up or inaccurate information.  (Such as here— please note that this article also documents CB threats for noncompliance.  They have never followed through.  Also a story here from the Chicago Trib, note that once the light of publicity was shining on the harrassment, it stopped.)

The Census Bureau also attempts to link a maximum $5k fine from a completely different (and earlier, so don’t let anyone tell you that Sec. 221 was “amended” with this because that is not the case) statute for post-conviction fines.  I have no doubt they would attempt to get such a fine if anyone ever was hauled before a Federal judge on ACS non response.  Given the number of people who already have chosen not to play (or have given patently false answers) without prosecution, such a scenario is presently remote. 

So, sections 193 and 221 would be in play, if and only IF, Census had not extended the ACS past its section 141 statutory authority.  As previously stated, section 141 does not give CB the authority to make a special survey into a replacement for any part of the decennial census– especially because they are not confining the ACS to a decennial or even mid-decade format– the ACS is a continual, “rolling” survey of expanding proportions.  The statutory authority for this just doesn’t exist.  (If it indeed does, please send along any other links or analyses for that.  I am NOT finding it.)

And the more people who are aware of this and object to it, the more remote the $100/$500 penalties will become.

This is very helpful.  CB has published all the various permutations and editions of the ACS online.  You can go see the information being demanded from their “random sample” HERE

If you are not already “sampled” and are currently reading up on this topic, please read these documents with some food for thought:

  • There is NO security classification on the main database, per CB’s 2006 Privacy Act notice.  (I’ll chase down the information, but I believe the ACS database was designed by Lockheed Martin.)
  • Your information would be maintained by NAME and ADDRESS.  (Contrary to the Privacy Act.)
  • Although I have a piece of correspondence assuring me that their information is encrypted, their Privacy Act notice does NOT state this.  Nor does it state how data is protected on the internet (because I very much doubt that ACS workers have internet-disabled laptops, or that the data in the regional offices is on secured and internet-inaccessible servers.)
  • Contrary to anything Census may say now, they are responsible for sharing their “confidential” information with other agencies to the detriment and violation of citizen and legal residents’ civil rights– Japanese (and Germans?) in WWII and Arab-Americans after 9/11.  The wall of protection seems very very low indeed– they should have fought those requests tooth & nail.  They didn’t.  Think about how easy this database is to access with the way the PII data is stored. 
  • And how about all those CB laptops gone missing?  ACS data actually posted– several times— on public websites??  How is this being addressed?  Anyone?  Anyone? 

If you are already “in the hopper,” so to speak, keep these facts in mind.  I have also read stories where people who did the ACS once now receive it *every* year.  Oooh, no.  See how quickly this “required” stuff gets worse and worse?

Title XIII, Section 141

Right.  As promised, here is the statute on which the Census Bureau is hanging its authority to conduct the American Community Survey.  Title XIII or 13, Chapter 5 contains the authorities granted the Census Bureau by Congress.  The full Chapter can be accessed here:  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/13/chapter-5

The section where CB thinks it has authority for everything they want to do with the American Community survey is in Subchapter II, especially Section 141 (there are two others as well).  This is how it reads [my comments are indented and italicized]:

(a) The Secretary shall, in the year 1980 and every 10 years thereafter, take a decennial census of population as of the first day of April of such year, which date shall be known as the “decennial census date”, in such form and content as he may determine, including the use of sampling procedures and special surveys. In connection with any such census, the Secretary is authorized to obtain such other census information as necessary.
  • Well, right off the mark we get into broad and undefined mention of “special surveys.”  CB is Constitutionally limited to a headcount in order to draw Congressional districts.  Period.  What other census information did Congress think CB would be wanting?  Too broad, too undefined in this paragraph.
(b) The tabulation of total population by States under subsection (a) of this section as required for the apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States shall be completed within 9 months after the census date and reported by the Secretary to the President of the United States.
  • Fine.  Give them a timeline to get their mission accomplished.
(c) The officers or public bodies having initial responsibility for the legislative apportionment or districting of each State may, not later than 3 years before the decennial census date, submit to the Secretary a plan identifying the geographic areas for which specific tabulations of population are desired. Each such plan shall be developed in accordance with criteria established by the Secretary, which he shall furnish to such officers or public bodies not later than April 1 of the fourth year preceding the decennial census date. Such criteria shall include requirements which assure that such plan shall be developed in a nonpartisan manner. Should the Secretary find that a plan submitted by such officers or public bodies does not meet the criteria established by him, he shall consult to the extent necessary with such officers or public bodies in order to achieve the alterations in such plan that he deems necessary to bring it into accord with such criteria. Any issues with respect to such plan remaining unresolved after such consultation shall be resolved by the Secretary, and in all cases he shall have final authority for determining the geographic format of such plan. Tabulations of population for the areas identified in any plan approved by the Secretary shall be completed by him as expeditiously as possible after the decennial census date and reported to the Governor of the State involved and to the officers or public bodies having responsibility for legislative apportionment or districting of such State, except that such tabulations of population of each State requesting a tabulation plan, and basic tabulations of population of each other State, shall, in any event, be completed, reported, and transmitted to each respective State within one year after the decennial census date.
  • State/local authorities can request special attention to areas which may be in need of redistricting.  Population counts in the decennial census.  Fine.
(d) Without regard to subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the Secretary, in the year 1985 and every 10 years thereafter, shall conduct a mid-decade census of population in such form and content as he may determine, including the use of sampling procedures and special surveys, taking into account the extent to which information to be obtained from such census will serve in lieu of information collected annually or less frequently in surveys or other statistical studies. The census shall be taken as of the first day of April of each such year, which date shall be known as the “mid-decade census date”.
  • Here we go with what CB has now interpreted to mean “we can do and ask anything we want.”  Cleverly written to encompass the undefined “special surveys” which Congress apparently did not limit to the mid-decade census.  However, in the later section, we see that there is indeed a limiting definition to all of this…
(1) If—

(A) in the administration of any program established by or under Federal law which provides benefits to State or local governments or to other recipients, eligibility for or the amount of such benefits would (without regard to this paragraph) be determined by taking into account data obtained in the most recent decennial census, and
(B) comparable data is obtained in a mid-decade census conducted after such decennial census,
then in the determination of such eligibility or amount of benefits the most recent data available from either the mid-decade or decennial census shall be used.
(2) Information obtained in any mid-decade census shall not be used for apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States, nor shall such information be used in prescribing congressional districts.
(f) With respect to each decennial and mid-decade census conducted under subsection (a) or (d) of this section, the Secretary shall submit to the committees of Congress having legislative jurisdiction over the census—
(1) not later than 3 years before the appropriate census date, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the subjects proposed to be included, and the types of information to be compiled, in such census;
(2) not later than 2 years before the appropriate census date, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the questions proposed to be included in such census; and
(3) after submission of a report under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection and before the appropriate census date, if the Secretary finds new circumstances exist which necessitate that the subjects, types of information, or questions contained in reports so submitted be modified, a report containing the Secretary’s determination of the subjects, types of information, or questions as proposed to be modified.
  • Some important waffle here.  paragraph 3 is providing the Census Bureau with a mechanism to report back to Congress and request additional authorities due to “new circumstances…which necessitate…types of information, or questions as proposed” be modified (or new surveys instituted).  Hmmm.  Ok, if this authority would be predicated on reports, well, time to do more research and see just what reports have been sent along and what they contain.
(g) As used in this section, “census of population” means a census of population, housing, and matters relating to population and housing. 
  • And CB is drawing “matters relating to population and housing” very very very broadly indeed.  When does infrastructure, or hospitals, or schools, etc. intersect with a census of population and housing?  What does an individual’s income, or racial/ethnic makeup, or marital status, or time one leaves for work, or utility bills, or in fact almost ALL the ACS questions have to do with a census of population or housing.  Housing stuff is easily obtained from local jurisdictions.  The rest, well… do you really trust a CB contractor without a security clearance or HSPD12 badge?  If you do, then go ahead and volunteer for this.  I decline to participate in any more buracratic insanity than absolutely necessary, ie NOT this.

This is the first section CB cites to in its ACS material.  The two other Title XIII sections will be examined in a later post.  A full legislative history of Section 141 would be very interesting to put together to see if Congress actually understood the broadness of the authority they were giving away.  I can’t bring myself to believe at this moment, without the research, that they *meant* to have surveys with such intrusive PII questions done on a continual basis by Census.  But I used to be even more of an optimist than that and this is why research and analysis is so important to countering the ACS. 

Further, in reading more of CB’s material, they are stating (not proposing– stating) that the ACS has replaced the decennial census long form.  THERE IS NO STATUTORY AUTHORITY FOR THIS.  No language in Section 141 allows a “special survey” to replace the decennial census.  The decennial census *cannot* be replaced– that would take either additional amendment of this Section or a new Section altogether.  The use of the ACS is improper and contrary to statutory authority provided for in Section 141. 

UPDATE, 2/17:  As I had feared, it does appear that the terms “population and housing” in Section 141 have indeed morphed into catch-alls for any information CB decides it wants to track.  This .pdf from the University of Kentucky includes a little table on page 1 that notes “Population Characteristics” and “Housing Characteristics.”  Changing the function of the terms “population” and “housing” from a census descriptor into an adjective defining characteristics appears to be quite beyond the approved authorities of this section.  (Link here)

I always stop by Seraphic Secret to see what is new and interesting.  Robert blogs on many interesting topics, including fashion, film history, great films, current events, screenwriting, writing in general, Yiddishkeit, his family, etc.

Yesterday’s post really hit home for me– check it out:  http://www.seraphicpress.com/childs-school-lunch-confiscated-by-government-official/

This is *exactly* what is going wrong with public/gov’t institutions:  people who think they know better than anyone else what is “good” for them.  This elitism and secular fundamentalism is doing more to destroy our ability to make our own decisions, conduct our lives responsibly and without interference, and not have to look over our shoulders.  Isn’t that one of the things that makes the USA such a great place?  I don’t want to use the past tense here, but if this slide continues, shame on all who sat back and let it happen. 

That’s why all these “government initiatives” are so insidious.  These agencies and program personnel tell us how much better our lives will be, or what better people we will be, if we just listen to them and do as they tell us.  And now, if we don’t, they’ll make our lives worse until we do as we’re told.  Because they’ve got all these little pieces of paper telling us how smart and better they are than us.  It’s for our benefit, they stress.  For the children.  For the planet.  To these people, we are just a mass of sheeple needing to be “governed” and incapable of thinking their lofty thoughts or restraining ourselves from analyzing and coming to our own actually informed decisions. 

Unless found unfit or abusive, parents have every right to determine what goes into their child’s lunch.  There are situations where I would want a school to (gently) inform me if my food choices for a packed lunch were not acceptable.  This would be in the area of kashrut, however, and a private matter between parents and the private educational institution (ie, something in the meal not meeting the heksher standards of the school).  But that’s the school I’ve chosen, so I accepted their standards and will abide by them– by choice and agreement.  That aside, since when does a turkey/cheese sandwich lose to chicken nuggets on any nutritional scale?? 

Here’s the rub.  Freedom is difficult.  Individual responsibility and self-direction can be hard.  However, the founders of this country, having come from or experienced oppression and colonialism and loss of control over their affairs under the British, understood that a nation following the path of freedom and individual liberty was bound to be better than a repressive, controlling form of government.  Were they perfect?  Was the system they devised perfect?  Of course not.  But it still beats any alternative.  That is what people clamoring for more government oversite, more “fairness” (whatever is meant by that), and less personal choice/responsibility do not seem to understand.  The EU is running roughshod over national rights of individuals.  They are openly protecting the wrong people, not holding them accountable to the laws of the societies they now live in, and not doing a thing for protecting the rights and safety of citizens living according to their nations’ laws.  And it seems to be happening more and more here as well.

But slavery, on the other hand, is easy.  You don’t have to think, because someone else is doing it for you.  You play along, and have all your needs taken care of (think Greece here).  Just submit to a governmental authority, and there’s a roof over your head and food on the table.  Like all slaves, though, step out of line, have some independence, and the kid gloves are off and exposing the steel fists underneath.  You are not your own.  You are OWNED.  You do as you’re told, and you don’t get hurt.  Unless, of course, you belong to a scapegoated class.  Unless you aspire to something more than just existing.  As those of us in the CB’s bullying cycle are finding out. 

As more and more Americans will be finding out.

UPDATE, 2/17:  And I’m not at all suprised to discover this wasn’t the only child who didn’t get to eat their parentally-packed lunch in the same school…  Looking at their guidelines, it would appear that some religious early childhood educational institutions would not qualify for this program.  *Requiring* meat?  Ok, they do mention “meat alternatives” but what if your kid won’t eat tuna?  Oh, btw– not that I get to eat candy anyway, but it’d be worth finding out what other products Mars, Inc. makes besides Snickers, & etc.  They signed on to FLOTUS’ food police initiative, and now your king-size candy bar are history.  And the regulars will be smaller (but not less expensive).  I say end purchases of ANY company on that list…

The story so far

My ACS timeline:

November, 2011.  Received the pre-survey materials from CB.  These have a heavy emphasis on “mandatory” responses and lots of rah-rah about how this information “helps” communities. 

Received the ACS.  Included were the looong instruction booklet and more “you have to fill this out, its the LAW” language.  Hmmm.  Reviewed the survey.  Got back up off the floor a couple of times during the review.  NO way can they require me to tell them this personal stuff.  NO. WAY.  Decision made to save everything. 

December, 2011.  Another letter from CB stating they hadn’t received my ACS form.  Another ACS form sent.  Looked up the “penalty” in Title XIII.  Congress set it at $100.  Period.  Not per question.  Just $100.

February 1, 2012.  Oh, look how lucky I am. 4:15pm, my CB stalker called my *unlisted* home number to say he was in my building, left an ACS packet with a sticker on the back of the envelope stating he was “required to make contact.”  At 9:02 pm, without a call announcing him (I’m guessing he ‘piggybacked’ his way into the building and did not stop at the front desk) he rang the doorbell and called the home number again, left message that he was at the door.

February 3, 2012.  Phone call without a message from 920-area code.  This is eastern Wisconsin.  I don’t know anyone at the moment in eastern Wisconsin.  I believe I’d had some calls from this number before, but as there are never messages and I do not answer calls from unknown numbers, I still don’t know.  I’m not calling the number and I don’t go around snooping.

February 5, 2012.  Sunday, 2:16 pm.  Another call/door visit from my CB stalker, according to the voicemail.  Shoved another ACS packet through my door.

February 6, 2012.  Two calls, 10:17 am and 6:39 am.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.  CB stalker rang the doorbell at 8:39 pm. 

February 7, 2012.  7:23 am Networking profile viewed.  9:24 am “Out of area”, no number, no message.  4:13 pm “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 8, 2012.  12:22 pm.  Call from 310 California area code, voicemail in Spanish trying to convince me to complete the ACS.  Switched to English to say “Relax. Take a deep breath…”  12:32 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  6:53 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 9, 2012.  9:31 am.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  1:01 pm.  1:02 pm.  CB stalker, no message.  4:31 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 10, 2012.  8:58 am.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  3:30 pm.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.  7:35 pm. “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 11, 2012.     9:39 am.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  2:03 pm.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.  4:14 pm.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 12, 2012.  2:46 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  4:48 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.  7:19 pm.   “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 13, 2012.  10:31 am.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.  11:32 am.  920-area code number again.  No message.  6:00pm.  Front desk of my building (actually had several hang-ups from the desk starting before 5:30pm).  CB stalker most likely in the lobby, as no message was left.  7:01 pm.  CB stalker, no message, but at least he didn’t get past the lobby.  Hey, this is new– letter to address, name incorrect from the Regional Supervisor.  I’ll fisk this in a later post.

February 14, 2012.  9:28 am. “Out of area”, no number, no message.

February 15, 2012.  10:32 am.  “Out of area”, no number, no message.      

Now, *why* in the world would they be so persistent?  If this were truly a “random sample,” any well-designed sample takes into account non-response and has additional draws ready to go.  Surely, they *must* understand that people are going to balk at all this personal info.  The sample should have that percentage built into it– IF IT TRULY WAS A PROFESSIONALLY-DESIGNED RANDOM SAMPLE.  That, I don’t know.

So, 15 days into the harrassment cycle and we can see the level of attempted intimidation and harrassment.  As I have chosen non-engagement, I don’t know what the CB stalker’s script is, but from other accounts I’ve read, it’s design is to get people to involuntarily respond with information bits the CB stalker can use to fill out more lines of the ACS for that person.  More on the reasons I’ve gone the non-engagement route later as well. 

If you would like to comment, I am more than happy to accept anony. stories.  Watch the personal information in them.  I would discourage the use of CB stalkers’ names because that will narrow the pool of those of us trying to publicize what they are doing and I don’t want anyone threatened or harrassed any more than has already happened.

Ok.  First post.  I never thought I’d be doing a site based on an attempt by a Federal agency to seize personal identifiable information (PII) and use it however they see fit, but its come to this.  This site may wander into other subjects as well, but the reason for this blog is to document my (and others’) stories about the Census Bureau and the “American Community Survey” (ACS). 

I’ll be updating this site as soon as possible with as much as possible.  Its not pretty, and I’ve found the more you dig into the ACS, the worse it becomes. 

I am not a statistic.  I am not needing to be “governed.”  I do not need a nannystate knowing private details of my life, or my family’s lives– not their purview.  All Federal agencies struggle to remain relevant and in business– sadly, that is an underlying principle of buracracy.  However, Census has bypassed “mission creep” and is currently engaged in “creepy mission.”  The word needs to get out, and people need to wake up about how insecure their personal information is if they should decide to fill out this form. 

My research has included the statutes the Census Bureau (CB) is using to force people to fill out their forms, the required Federal Register notices regarding databases and information in the ACS itself, and Congressional hearings/debates (if any, still working this) about Title 13 itself. 

I would also like to hear from other people who have ended up being harrassed for their informed decision not to play.  Gathering these stories from around the country may eventually help get the attention of certain elected representatives who are still possessed of the American backbone to stand up and address actions and programs that are wrong.

There are other sites that have posts about the ACS.  I’d like this site to have a sustained focus on the problem, how people across the country– of all colors, economic backgrounds, rural, urban, suburban, and citizen or legal immigrant– are being effected by the ACS and CB’s administration of same.