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Data Protection and Privacy Policy


An important function of the Federal government's Executive Branch is collecting information to administer programs authorized by the U.S. Congress. For the U.S. Census Bureau, this means collecting high quality information, or data, to meet the nation's statistical needs as identified by Congress through its budgetary and policy decisions. Data collection and associated activities that turn raw data into meaningful statistical information are undertaken most efficiently through the use of information technology or, simply, telecommunication and computer hardware and software. The Census Bureau honors the privacy of America's people and businesses by asking only what is needed to fulfill our mission and protects the confidentiality of the information collected through state-of-the-art technology.

Title 13 U.S.C., a Federal law, provides strong confidentiality protections for all individual information collected by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau constantly pursues new procedures, technologies and methodologies to safeguard individual data. Census Bureau employees are explicitly prohibited by Title 13 from revealing confidential Census Bureau information for any purpose. Violating this law is a Federal crime with serious penalties, including a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

The Census Bureau has created a gold standard of federal privacy and confidentiality programs grounded in federal statute and professional ethical codes. Additionally, we continue to employ the latest technology and techniques to bolster this protection. The Census Bureau is committed to ensuring that public trust is priority number one in our every activity as the leading source of quality statistics describing America's people and our economy. In addition, the Census Bureau scrutinizes all the data that we collect so that we only collect data that are necessary.

The E-Government Act of 2002 requires federal agencies to conduct PIAs when developing or significantly modifying information technology (IT) systems or information collections. Consistent with the objectives of the E-Government Act and to ensure the continued trust of our constituency, the Census Bureau publicly releases the PIAs it prepares.

The Census Bureau PIAs are labeled as "Data Stewardship/Privacy Impact Assessments" (DS/PIAs). At the Census Bureau, privacy, confidentiality, disclosure avoidance and security are key components of data stewardship. The Census Bureau's DS/PIAs bolster our data stewardship program, as well as recently adopted Privacy Principles and a host of supporting policies. These principles and policies help us carry out our mission to collect high quality data and meet our legal requirements to ensure that individually identified data are kept confidential and are not used to affect the rights, privileges, or benefits of the individuals or businesses whose data contribute to products. These protections apply whether information is obtained directly from an individual or a business, or from an administrative source.

The DS/PIAs offer the Census Bureau an opportunity to affirm that it is using its legal and policy protections to ensure that, in fact, data are being collected and used in a manner that emphasizes our commitment to honoring privacy and protecting confidentiality while ensuring useful statistical data products for the nation. The Census Bureau embraces this opportunity to examine each of its major programs.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Privacy Office | Last Revised: September 27, 2012