aNewDomain — Pew Research recently reported that the U.S. Census Bureau put under review four of the touchiest mandatory American Community Survey topics: plumbing, commuting, income and disability. It got a lot of push-back from the public on these questions, partly because many citizens think the questions were too nosy. But there’s the NSA to consider, too.
Here are the four questions:
- Does this house, apartment or mobile home have a flush toilet?
- What time did [each person in the household] usually leave home to go to work last week?
- What was [each person in the household’s] total income during the past 12 months?
- Because of a physical, mental or emotional condition, does [each] person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?
You see, right now, according to the Patriot Act, the NSA has the right to access and data mine the census answers. So not only are Americans being asked fairly personal (and keep in mind they are mandatory) questions, but the intelligence arm of the Government can also take and use that data.
But as Poitras noted in her acceptance speech, the NSA surveillance programs that she helped to reveal ‘don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy.’ Citizens can’t vote out politicians for adopting a wrongheaded or illegal policy ‘when the most important decisions affecting all of us are made in secret.'”
EFF and the NSA
On the Jan. 29, 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won a crucial court case so as to make the White House more transparent about the information it gathers.
The EFF says on its site:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won its four-year long Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over secret legal interpretations of a controversial section of the Patriot Act, including legal analysis of law enforcement and intelligence agency access to census records.”
Essentially, the EFF wants you to know exactly who your data is shared with. If the NSA wants to become not only a Big Brother, but a giant one, it can easily check to see if your toilet is flushing. Or when you usually leave the house. Data mining is a priority for the White House for budget and social policy planning, causes that are necessary for a government to run. This is not all about surveillance, but when the NSA has access to such records, it easily becomes about surveillance.
‘The public trusts that information disclosed for the census won’t wind up in the hands of law enforcement or intelligence agencies,’ EFF Staff Attorney Mark Rumold said. ‘The public has a right to know what the Office of Legal Counsel’s conclusions were on this topic, and we’re happy to have vindicated that important right.'”
Cross Agency Data Mining
Many citizens have complained about intrusion to their privacy by the questions asked in the census. Of course, they were not aware that under the Patriot Act not only was the government being nosy, but they were keeping tabs as well. The three million households a year who are asked these questions need to be aware that cross agency data mining is possible, especially when they must answer the survey questions.