My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘confidential’

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Is your census data really “confidential” if it’s being shared with private and public universities?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The following report comes from the Associated Press…Let’s just hope that the researchers at university data centers take good care of your personal data, because any breach could have dire consequences. We will continue to explore this subject in the coming days to determine precisely which (if any) data from the decennial census will be distributed to universities. MyTwoCensus.com supports higher education and demographic research, but if neither the President nor the FBI can’t (in theory, but not in practice…) access census data, then neither should private citizens at universities.

Palo Alto, Calif. (AP) — Stanford University is preparing to launch a high-security data center, where researchers will analyze some of the most confidential Census information. The Stanford facility, which opens this month, will serve as a satellite center to the one at University of California, Berkeley. There are only a handful of other such data centers in the country — at top research schools, including Duke, Cornell and UCLA. C. Matthew Snipp, a Stanford demographer who will head the new center, says the data being handled there is much more detailed than what’s released publicly. The information feeds studies by economists, sociologists and public health researchers, among others. Snipp says the center will be under strict security measures to protect people’s privacy.

UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle has posted a more comprehensive version of this story HERE.

FedEx-gate Investigation Continued: Census Bureau wastes $3 million…or more?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

NOTE: We urge whistleblowers to contact us about this issue and any other issues that you may have experienced. MyTwoCensus staff will always protects your anonymity and provide resources and advice to assist you.

Soon after MyTwoCensus broke the story about the Census Bureau’s gross overuse of FedEx, readers (all of whom requested anonymity to protect themselves because they are afraid that they will be fired for speaking out, even though whistleblowers are protected by the law) contacted us with their personal stories.

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Below, please find one reader’s personal story (All details of this story have been fact-checked. MyTwoCensus will hereafter refer to this employee as Jane Doe):

“Please do not reveal my name.  A fellow census worker gave me your website tonight.  They do not have the courage to complain, and I probably should not, but I have always had more courage than sense.

Regarding Census Bureau use of FedEx – you will not believe the extent of it.  From November 2008, through late April 2009, every field employee was REQUIRED to FedEx a payroll form every day that they worked.  That is one page and a carbon copy of it.
I began working on December X, 2008, as a Recruiter, and worked 5 to 6 days per week through February X, 2009 when all recruiters in XXXXXXXXXX were abruptly laid off.  Not only did it cost them the FedEx rate everyday for my payroll report, but they required that I drive it to the nearest drop box every day and paid me $12.75 for the one hour round trip, plus $14.63 for the 25 mile round trip – every day!  For every recruiter!
If we had been allowed to use the post office, the envelopes/packages would have been picked up at my home.  I would not have had to drive to a drop box, and when I had a larger package the nearest post office is 25 miles (50 miles round trip) closer than the nearest FedEx store.”

After speaking with the Public Information Office at the Census Bureau’s national headquarters in Suitland Maryland, MyTwoCensus was told that FedEx was used to “protect confidential information.”

MyTwoCensus followed up with the 2010 Census employee (Jane Doe) who provided the above statement. She replied, “The information that I received was primarily not confidential information, but rather, it was instructions on how to perform my duties. The information that I sent was primarily my daily payroll report. It contained my name, my employee ID number, and my hours worked.”

This employee provided MyTwoCensus with FedEx package information/photos to corroborate what she told us.

Is this sensitive information or confidential information? Hardly! The names and ID numbers of Census Bureau employees are already highly visible on Census Bureau employees’ ID badges.

Just to clarify that MyTwoCensus isn’t looking to start trouble, Jane Doe told us, “On days that I sent more than one envelope, those packages did contain confidential materials with applicants identification information.”

Now that we have laid out the facts, we are awaiting a more thorough response from the Census Bureau…

Confidential Memo Leaked To Us: Beware of the Inspector General

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The following memo was leaked to us by a Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity, so we crossed out all identifying information. We particularly love the line “Don’t be a chatterbox.” We haven’t witnessed a pep talk written with as much vigor as this one since last season’s finale of Friday Night Lights…

We’re waiting for an update to see if anyone got canned as a result of the Inspector General’s visit to this office, but for now, here’s the dirt:

From: XXXXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Sent: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
To: XXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Subject: RE: The Inspector General – - Some Things to Inspect

Hello team,

As you all know by now, the Inspector General will be visiting your office Monday morning for an entire week. They are to observe the office and may ask to receive general reports to review. Please be courteous to them. They are in no way to obstruct Address Canvassing activities for any reason. If you are not sure how to handle a particular situation in dealing with the IG, please talk to XXXXXXXX or myself before committing yourself to an action or verbal statement. The IG comes off as very nice people and they are but there job is too find out what is WE’RE NOT doing correctly. It has come down that they have actually baited listers and office staff into doing wrong procedures. They will say things like” I just don’t add that entry it’s no big deal” or say “Oh just skip that house and go to the next”. This is how people in other offices and regions got dinged.

Trust me when I say the XXXXXXXX region is counting on XXXXX to come through for us. Your report from the IG will go straight to Washington, DC, Suitland, and all the other 12 regions. Here’s what you should do:

1. make sure you and your staff know all the procedures for their area and have the manuals handy.
2. Certain basic questions staff should be able to answer and be able to reference the manual(s) on what they are saying.
3. If you don’t know something, say I will get back to you on that and do it quickly.
4. Only tell them what they are asking for., Don’t get wordy with them be courteous and respectful but don’t be a chatter box.
5. Field staff have got to make sure they are following all procedures and not taking short cuts even when baited.

XXXXXXXX, they are going to come directly to the QC area because this is where all the crazy things have been happening with people in the field. make sure your well versed in your manual and that listers know to knock on every door and not skip houses.

I know you all will do fine and make the rest of the region proud.

Good luck to you all !!

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Area Manager
XXXXXXX, Regional Census Center