|“In an age when the government has significant technological resources at its disposal to not only carry out warrantless surveillance on American citizens but also to harvest and mine that data for its own dubious purposes, whether it be crime-mapping or profiling based on race or religion, the potential for abuse is grave,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Any attempt by the government to encroach upon the citizenry’s privacy rights or establish a system by which the populace can be targeted, tracked, and singled out must be met with extreme caution. The American Community Survey qualifies as a government program whose purpose, while seemingly benign, raises significant constitutional concerns.”
The American Community Survey (ACS) is a highly invasive, ongoing monthly survey issued by the U.S. Census Bureau to collect detailed housing and socioeconomic data from about 3.5 million households each year. The ACS requires recipients to provide the government with extensive and sensitive information about each and every person in their household, including their work schedules, their physical disabilities and limitations, the number of automobiles kept at the residence, and their access to phone-service and the internet. The information collected by the ACS is not anonymous: the survey is to contain the name, age, sex, race, and home address of each person at the residence, along with their relationship to the person who fills out the form and that person’s phone number. There are so many questions on the ACS that it is estimated the average household will have to take 40 minutes to answer the questions.
When people do not respond online or by mail, the Census Bureau repeatedly sends field representatives to their homes at unannounced times to harass and interview them until they answer the survey. People have reported that field representatives remained outside their houses for hours while waiting for them to arrive home or come out, have walked around their homes, and have talked to minor children when parents were away. The questions on the ACS are so invasive that many initially think the survey is a phishing scam to steal their personal information. Institute attorneys warn that the data collected and amassed by the Census Bureau through the ACS would be a goldmine for criminals.
The Rutherford Institute’s public comment in opposition to the proposed questions in the ACS regarding disabilities and mental health is available at www.rutherford.org.
The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, defends individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated and educates the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting their freedoms.