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Privacy and Confidentiality Research and the U.S. Census Bureau: Recommendations Based on a Review of the Literature

Thomas S. Mayer

KEY WORDS: privacy; confidentiality; attitudes; nonresponse


In the course of its mission as the nationís collector and provider of official statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau is committed to respecting the privacy concerns of respondents and protecting the confidentiality of the data they provide. It is suspected, however, that concerns about privacy and confidentiality are gaining more attention and may affect peopleís willingness to cooperate with the censuses and surveys the Census Bureau conducts. This paper explores a number of issues regarding privacy concerns and attitudes, confidentiality beliefs, and their relationship to the functions of the U.S. Census Bureau. The review discusses: a) the individual definitions of privacy and confidentiality, and the relationship between the two concepts; b) public attitudes over the last several decades; c) how attitudes and perceptions might affect the Census Bureau (e.g., survey nonresponse, data quality, cost of enumeration, etc.); d) the importance of the Census Bureauís ability to maintain public confidence in order to maintain public cooperation; e) how issues associated with privacy and confidentiality affect the Census Bureau now, and speculation as to their possible effects in the future; and f) recommendations about what might be done to address current and future problems associated with privacy and confidentiality.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: 07-FEB-2002

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010