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 ‘glitch’

MyTwoCensus files Freedom of Information Act request to better understand Census Bureau tech failures

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting the records of all technical and information technology glitches, failures, and errors that involved the Census Bureau and its technology systems from January 1, 2006 through the present. This includes everything from e-mail systems going down to fingerprint scanners not working properly to the recent paper-based operational control system failure. Most important to me are items pertaining to the 2010 Census. I would appreciate if you started with the most recent failures and worked your way back. These should include every piece of technology that the Census Bureau uses at field offices as well as at headquarters in Suitland.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com, governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Press Conference Is A Farce Because Of Tech Failure

Friday, December 18th, 2009

On Monday, December 14, Dr. Robert M. Groves, Director of the Census Bureau, attempted to hold a press conference about the status of the 2010 Census. However, after only a handful of questions were asked during the Q&A time, the phone line for the conference call mysteriously died. I, like many other journalists, could see from my phone that I was still connected to the call, meaning that the audio from the Census Bureau’s end had simply gone dead. I called back in to the conference call and was re-connected to the event. Once connected, the phone line again remained silent. This was particularly annoying because prior to the glitch I was in line to ask a question, as were dozens of other journalists from across the country. I waited on the silent line for 15 minutes before realizing that this gaffe had effectively cut short Dr. Groves’ press conference, which is only the second one of this type (other than monthly operational briefings) he has given since taking office in July.

After this incident occurred, I e-mailed the Census Bureau’s public information office to inquire about how I could ask Dr. Groves my questions and and why the line went dead. I received the following reply, “Stephen — unfortunately the line went dead for everyone.  We don’t have a transcript and are researching how to get one. Do you have specific questions we can answer?” Since replying to this e-mail, I have had no response from the Census Bureau.

In the year 2009, failures of simple technology like are completely unacceptable. It is our hope that such operations issues are not indicative of the way that the 2010 Census will be run on a day to day basis. Making matters worse were the Census Bureau’s failure to apologize to the journalists who were dropped from the call and failure to provide a full transcript of the event, particularly after the audio breakdown.

We are still waiting for the transcript, an explanation, and an apology…