Demystifying the Census

When the writers of the Constitution established a census as a way to understand and meet the needs of America’s growing population, it probably seemed like a straightforward proposition. However, in the modern era, data collection and privacy are a lot more complicated. It can be hard to know what — or who — to believe these days when it comes to disclosing personal information about you and your family.

And while taking part in the census is important, it may raise questions. How does participation in the census impact privacy and civil rights? What does the federal government do with the information it collects through the census? How can the information it obtains be used — or not be used?

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them anonymous and confidential. The answers you provide are used to produce statistics. By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any information that could identify you, your family members, your home or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

If you have any questions or suspicions about a U.S. Census Bureau survey, phone call, or mailing, contact the bureau’s regional office in Los Angeles at 1-800-992-3530. To verify that a person is a U.S. Census Bureau employee and authorized to collect information, visit the bureau staff search engine at https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/main/email.cgi

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