Letter: 2016 U.S. Census Implementing Massive Invasion of Privacy

Dear Sir,

Last year we were contacted that we were chosen to be a part of the 2016 U.S. Census. This is a year-long census where you are contacted at intervals throughout the year. It is monthly and then there is a break of a few months and then back to monthly. Some months they come to your home for 20 to 30 minutes of questioning and other months they call you for follow-up questions. We now have three more to go. Last night was the most invasive to date. I was shocked at the personal questions I was being asked. I was asked all the normal questions. How many people live in this house? Do you work and where? How many hours a week do you work? What is your annual income? Years of college? What are your certifications? They asked the “normal” questions, but then…

Banking information:

  • Did we have a checking and a savings?
  • Did we use the teller, the ATM, online banking, or phone banking?
  • Do we transfer money from account to account via online baking or with an app on our phone?
  • Were there any loans we had applied for over the last year– auto, mortgage, credit card, et cetera
  • Had we applied for a Pay-Day Loan?
  • Had we pawned anything?

The list went on and on. I finally said I felt like she was asking a lot of questions. She said this was a new supplement. I know we are required to answer and partake in the Census, but I have to say I felt like it was a massive invasion of my privacy.  I would like to know why my personal information is so important to anyone other than our family. Thank you for allowing me to vent my frustrations. Sincerely, A Little Bird

HJL’s Comment:

The Census Bureau is getting bolder and more intrusive every time they collect data. It’s not just the Census either. The Department of Agriculture has sent me questionnaires on rural farm property that I owned over 15 years ago. When I ignored them, they escalated to threats of jail time (via letter), but they eventually stopped.

You are not legally obligated to answer any question of the Census Bureau except how many people live in your household. When I held them to just that information, they resorted to querying the neighbors, camping out on the street corner, observing the house, and generally stalking behavior to collect what they wanted. Despite all the threats and wasted time, there is no teeth in this organization, just annoyance. Rest assured that while there is confusion on the subject, you do not have to let them into your home, and no one has been prosecuted for not answering any questions beyond the number of people living in your household.


  1. Of course you could just start giving disinformation about yourself and then if they question you act outraged that they would doubt your truthfulness. In general just start talking about anything and everything and not actually answering the questions. When they try to get you to answer the question tell them you are. No one likes dealing with crazy people.

    1. Give only the legally required information and decline to answer any other questions.I would strongly advise not to make any false or fictitious statements. Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibits such. “WIKI” USC 18-1001 to see just pervasive this statute is.

    2. Better to politely but firmly tell them to mind their own business William. That goes for anyone who wants to find out about your personal business.

      I would recommend everyone keep a video recording device (smart phone etc) handy to record these interactions. Be sure to let them know you are recording it and if they object advise them they should leave because you are not turning it off.

    3. That sounds gratifying, “gas lighting” them. But consider this- there are social security recipients who’ve had their second amendment rights taken away because the government considers them “crazy”. My understanding is that these folks had difficulty managing their money and so got an official payee fo handle their SS benefits. That there cost them their second amendment rights.

  2. I don’t return any government forms (except IRS), including the Census Bureau. You can mark ‘deceased’ on the envelop and drop it back in the mail, or you can ignore the repeat letters and when they send someone, the proper response is ‘you are trespassing on my property.’

  3. As a veteran law enforcement officer Hugh is correct, you only have to disclose the number of people living in the home. I refused to answer beyond that and the guy left. He came back an hour later with his supervisor who threatened to have me arrested. I laughed, gave him directions to the Sheriffs office, then told him to leave or I’d arrest him myself for tresspassing. Why do they need to know how many toilets a home has? That was on my questionnaire.

  4. Yes, one could give off the wall answers, however, with the way in which Government functions now, you might be red flagged as being mentally ill. Then they would see if you have ever purchased a firearm. Next thing you know, the local Police are showing up at your door and perhaps taking all your firearms! Sadly, in this day and age, there is almost NO privacy, and fewer and fewer rights!

  5. I thought the census was taken every 10 years. Why were they asking questions in a non-census year? I have worked as a census taker before, and those were the type of questions we assured the people we would not be asking.

  6. Sounds like you got caught up in the American Community Survey. The Census Dept sent me this survey to fill out a few years ago, and promptly ignored it. Also received several warning letters to fill it out, of which I ignored all of those. It’s a privacy nightmare and I refuse to fill it out. I also filled out only the number in our household, as required by the Constitution back in 2010.

  7. American Community Survey
    “The American Community Survey helps local officials, community leaders and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed information about the American people and workforce.”

    Note the word “businesses” above. This would mean that the gubberment is selling your private information.

    1. They’re not smart enough or too corrupt to sell your information,they just give it to their friends,probably the Building Inspector( looking for code violations),and the Tax Assessor

  8. We have never been accosted by the census people. We get the form in the mail, and it finds its way in the trash. But no one has physically came knocking at the door..Could be the two pitbulls at the locked gate as the welcoming committee.

  9. I clicked on the links, what a joke, the first link to Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 was information on fines. There was nothing on any Census. The second link on Section 3559 was on jail for Arson, Murder, Kidnapping, Sex Offenses, again nothing on census.

    Here is what the US Census website states:

    Do I have to answer these questions?
    ACS Questionnaires

    Yes. You are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can.

    The relevant laws are Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221.

    Your answers are important. As part of a sample, you represent many other people.




  10. If you are harassed, or they try to intimidate you contact your senators and representatives and fill a complaint, Try and get the names of the people and name them in your letters. Email is ok but you get better results with a letter. Be sure and CC everyone you can think of also.

  11. I did a little research after I told the census worker that 2 people lived here and that was all she was going to get. Yes they sent me a letter threatening arrest but when I researched it the only folks that were ever arrested were those that gave false answers. I purchased a mini recorder so I could record our conversation if she ever showed up again but she never did. I would not tell untruths just say how many people live there and then tell them to leave!

  12. Several years ago, I also received the survey. After reading through it, I deemed it a huge privacy invasion and refused to send it back. I received multiple threatening letters, all of which I ignored. The letters finally stopped coming.

  13. The last time this happened to me I had a very unpleasant women who worked for a private company supposedly working for the government come to my house. We had quite a discussion over what I would answer for questions. Last census a worker called about unanswered questions,I repedily told her none of your business as a supervisor listened in.

  14. I too once had one of the “busy-bodies” in my face at the front door of my home asking idiot questions. Round and round we went until I finally got the truth out of them, “you have to tell me how many people live here.” I told them the number, they left. End of story.
    Everyone must remember, public servants, whether appointed, elected, hired or otherwise, are simply that: PUBLIC SERVANTS. They work for you and me. It is up to us, WE THE PEOPLE, to keep them in line and in check. If they overstep their bounds or authority, WE THE PEOPLE need to knock them down a notch or two.

    1. You could have as much fun with them as salesmen or JehovasWitnesses,hand them a beer and start talking conspiracy theories or tell them you are pulling weeds and they have to help

  15. I had the long form in 2000. I complied with my Constitutional duty and answered 3 and sent the form in. They badgered me on and off for three years but I never wavered. At one point a lady called and said she could stop over and help me with the questions! Being a nice guy I said sure and offered her a cup of coffee but I would not be answering her questions….she declined to come for coffee. Ultimately started to threaten with fines and if I recall jail. Just stood my ground and they finally gave up.

  16. Interesting, isn’t it, that the same government that pretty much ignores the Constitution and Bill of Rights (when it’s convenient to them) will prosecute you and I for doing the same? This sounds more like a phishing scheme than a consensus and I wonder what the federal penalty section is for telling them to take a hike. One needs an actual codified law to make an arrest…

  17. And this is what has occured due to our(American people)continually allowing so called “officials” to get away with this intrusive behavior and by not holding them to the paramaters, and only those, allowed under the Constitution. It has gone on for well over 100 years and will continue to get worse by the year until we are right back to asquare one asking the kings permission to wipe our own asses. Enough!!!
    Census – How many people live in your household – State number, are they male or female – yes! enough – end of discussion. that is all they need to know as the census provides for how many representatives each area is allowed…. Everything else is simply intrusion and data gathering for control purposes… Wake up America!

  18. Of course if everyone in the redoubt said there were 20 people in their home (call them undocumented, in this case my invisible friends), ID, MT, and WY would have 5 or more electoral votes each and the californicated regions wouldn’t have as much weight.

    I’m not sure whether they count the number of noncitizens, legally here or otherwise, for determining electoral votes and congressional districts.

    Both in Idaho and Wyoming (I’m not sure about Montana) there are the remains of the Japanese Internment Camps. The census data was used to round up the American Citizens.

    1. I was at Old Fort Missoula yesterday. They have a new exhibit on the 1000 Japanese interred there during WWII. So, yes, Montana has them, too.

  19. Washington State counts non citizens, gives them drivers licenses, encourages them to vote. And now Seattle is passiung ordinances to fine property owners if they refuse to provide renters the instructions on how to register to vote. Socialist Fascist power is overwhelming in King County, and they are continuing to ensure they retain legislative and congressional power by encouraging more people to reside in their enclave by “Upsizing” skyscrapers in certain districts and making sure 10% of the dwelling space goes to their slavish poor who gain Section 8 housing subsidies. It’s sick and sad to keep encouraging people to work for a minimum wage, and on a part time basis, as the number of fatherless and parentless children grows more dependent upon handouts.

    We volunteer time and food every month to feed people at a community meal our church sponsors. Many folks are unable to work but they are far outnumbered by those who refuse to support themselves legally. For many, there is no happy future in this life or the next due to their refusal. Please pray for God to open their hearts and minds to accept the salvation offered through Jesus, the Son of God. It’s their last recourse.

  20. I did check the web site before answering the first time they showed up and if I’m understanding correctly I’m required by law to answer all the questions.
    The info below is directly from their website. (Link above…)
    At least I know I’m not alone in my frustration with all of these questions.

    American Community Survey
    Why Was I Selected?

    Why did I get an American Community Survey?

    Your address was selected as a part of a sample and represents thousands of other households like yours. We randomly select about 3.5 million addresses each year to participate in the survey.

    Do I have to answer these questions?
    ACS Questionnaires

    Yes. You are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can.

    The relevant laws are Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221.

    Your answers are important. As part of a sample, you represent many other people.

    Why We Ask Each Question

    Find out why we ask the questions on the ACS form and how the answers are used to help your community.

    Why is the ACS mandatory?
    Response to the survey is mandatory because the American Community Survey is part of the decennial census, replacing the “long form” that previously was sent to a percentage of households once every 10 years. Learn more about what would happen to the American Community Survey if it was not mandated by law.

    Data from the American Community Survey helps your community. The information that the Census Bureau collects helps to determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services. Through the ACS, we know more about jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, whether people own or rent their home, and other topics. Public officials, planners,
    and entrepreneurs use this information to assess the past and plan the future.

    When you respond to the ACS, you are doing your part to help your community plan hospitals and schools, support school lunch programs, improve emergency services, build bridges, and inform businesses looking to add jobs and expand to new markets, and more.

    Your Answers, Your Future

    May 21, 2015

    The American Community Survey provides an annual portrait of the nation and our communities that America can use to assess the past and plan the future.

    1. As a former Census Bureau employee who worked on the ACS, I can assure you that legally you are only required to answer how many people live in your home or at this particular property. The objective is to create a map of every single habitable spot in the United States. Even on the regular (every 10 years) Census, you are not required by law to answer any questions. However, we were trained to get as much information as possible, whether it was by actually getting people to answer the questions, or just by filling in information according to what you see around the property. There are only 3 questions that the survey taker needs to fill out on the survey in order to get paid for that address, number of people, if a habitable building is at the address, and if not, then you have to enter the longitude and latitude coordinates. You would be amazed how much information that the government has even in (end of the world) places. The American Redoubt was my territory. I quit because my husband lost his job and we had to move.

  21. In the 2000 census, I only filled in the required number of persons living in the household and mailed it back. A few weeks/months later, sure enough we got a knock on the door – a contract/temp employee asking for more info. I refused, and she seemed to understand, although it took about a half hour to convince her that I was not giving any more info, . . . although I inadvertently lost my mind and opsec and told her a little about where I worked, since she was only doing this to hold her over until she could get back in the work force after being laid off, and she had a semi-similar work background as mine. I don’t remember any threats, but they were still pretty stubborn about wanting more info. As tough as it was to be stubborn myself and not give any info, I was glad I did not. Never heard anything else about it.

    If there was some other questionnaire I was requested to fill out, I would absolutely refuse. Census is the only one, and minimally (minimum required only), besides tax forms.

  22. A few years back when we were living in northeastern Washington, we got a very long form with lots of nosey questions. They wanted to know details of what we were growing and how much, numbers of various animals, quantities of stored farm commodities, details of all farm equipment, etc. etc. Right about that time was when the new law came out about the govt having the right to confiscate any of those things in an “emergency.” Think we happily filled out that form and sent it in? NOPE! They nagged us for awhile , but eventually gave up. I did save the form just to prove to folks that it actually happened. Unbelievable! How stupid do they think we are??

  23. Hello Folks,

    In 2010 I got the long form for the census. I answered the only actual required question. For the rest of the questions, my written answer was “You have no Constitutional authority to ask this question.” I never heard anything more from those jerks.

  24. I got my first “long form” census in 1980 and I refused to answer anything besides how many people lived in the house. But in my senior years I’ve gotten more involved in genealogical matters and I’m sure grateful for the information I’ve been able to cull from all those old census records.

  25. I guess it’s fine for the G to lie, just not us. Anyway. From USC title 13, chapter 5, which is what describes the census. This is the pertinent line
    “Without regard to subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the Secretary, in the year 1985 and every 10 years thereafter, shall conduct a mid-decade census of population in such form and content as he may determine, including the use of sampling procedures and special surveys, taking into account the extent to which information to be obtained from such census will serve in lieu of information collected annually or less frequently in surveys or other statistical studies.”

    So that makes you think they can ask anything they want.


    Pub. L. 105–119, title II, §209, Nov. 26, 1997, 111 Stat. 2480

    states that

    (1) it is the constitutional duty of the Congress to ensure that the decennial enumeration of the population is conducted in a manner consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States;

    (2) the sole constitutional purpose of the decennial enumeration of the population is the apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States;

    So the only constitutional purpose for the census is the enumeration of the population, so that is the only thing they can constitutionally require you to answer.

    Also, in USC 18, the possible jail time for refusing the answer/lying on the census was removed in 1976. Now the max punishment is $100/$500 fine, respectively.

  26. I had my moments with the census a few years back….. the take away from that was they GPS’d my front door. Given my efforts to remain free, and make sure my community did the wise things, this was alarming. Hellfire, meet front door. Or, black copter, meet front door….. seriously, GPS’d the front door, wouldn’t an address be sufficient.

  27. Directly from the .Gov web site. Max fine $100

    From Title 13—CENSUS
    §221. Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers
    (a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100.
    (b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.
    (c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no person shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious beliefs or to membership in a religious body.
    (Aug. 31, 1954, ch. 1158, 68 Stat. 1023; Pub. L. 85–207, §15, Aug. 28, 1957, 71 Stat. 484; Pub. L. 94–521, §13, Oct. 17, 1976, 90 Stat. 2465.)

  28. While the Census bureau can impose a fine for not answering the long form, there is no government agency authorized to collect that fine. In addition, no one has ever gone to jail for not answering the questions. During the third phone call I mentioned to the woman that “I’ll see you in court. ” Never heard back from them.

  29. I have always given the census people who come to my door (after I trash the mailed form) two choices. “Enumerate” has two definitions in the 1820 dictionary 1) to list or 2) to count. I tell them they can either have a list of names, or just a number. When they refuse either choice and come back with a supervisor, I eventually offer a copy of the questions asked in 1791 at my address:
    1) name of head of household MR. XXXX
    2) number of children under 18 yrs of age None
    3) number of males over 18 None
    4) number of females over 18 One
    5) number of slaves None
    6) number of untaxed Indians None

    I explain that since that was what was asked in 1791, it was obviously what the Constitution required and that is all that they need. He took it, chuckled, and never heard from them again in the past 20 years – not by mail or in person

  30. It has been a while since we had a census taker here, so I don’t remember the exact details. But when they came, I was ready with a form for them to fill out, including their full name, ss#, address, phone number, etc. It was in reference to some legality. She refused to fill it out, so I refused to answer any more questions. I had already sent in the answer to the first question…how many people.

  31. This is extremely interesting and disturbing! What would happen if I answered “I don’t know” over and over to the intrusive questions beyond just the enumerating responses?

    1. We have NO TRESPASSING signs from North American Rural Land Owners (Narlo.org) which gives the lists the Federal laws about government employees trespassing on posted proprty.

  32. Back in 2010 I was badgered by the census people and during the the first half of the year I worked my way up to an area supervisor coming on to my farm as they all did in the government leased Cadillac Escapades. I was cutting grass and first I didn’t turn off the mower, just slowed down so he could pace along as I kept mowing and he was talking and waving his hands. I smiled politely as I gradually increased my speed working farther and farther from the house and shade. When I got him as far as I could go in the bar ditch over 1/4 mile from the house I stopped, shut off the engine and said, “boy it sure is a hot day, I think I’ll head up to the house for a cool one, want to follow, it’s up to you.” I took off in top gear. He followed and by the time he got up to our yard I had a big glass of Iced tea in hand and was sitting in the shade with the other side of the table out in the blazing sun. I have to give him credit, he stuck to his guns and kept asking me if I was the owner, if I was the person they sent the questionnaire too, and if I lived there. I only answered “I’m cutting the grass’. Every time he would as something or ask for some ID I’d give him the same, “I’m cutting the grass”. I’m fairly well known locally as I host a conservative talk show on a local radio station. He finally got around to telling me how confidential all the information I give him will be kept. I made a mental note of that “confidential business” and finishing my ice tea climbed on my mower and without another word continued mowing. Every time I was in sight of the house he was still setting there but after a while he had sense enough to move into the shade and I could see he made several cell phone calls and finally left, throwing gravel half way down the drive and nearly spun out getting on the gravel road. I was almost expecting a SWAT team would show up any minute but I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks. During that time we had a lot of callers to the radio show complaining about the census so I thought I would call this Census bureau supervisor and get him to come on the show. He was very polite and agreed to come on the show and put the citizens minds at ease about the census. In the mean time I did my home work on the Census bureau web site. You should have seen the surprise look on his face when he showed up at the radio station as the appointed time. He recognized me and started sweating. I gave him some rope to let him tell how important the census was to the the country and how every thing was confidential and none of the information would ever be given out, shared or sold. We had a few callers with questions and a few venting their anger at the government in general then I asked him if he was sure the information was only used by the government and he assured my that was so. I then handed him one of several pages I had printed from the Census Bureau’s web site which gave the prices of different types of surveys and statistics that they sell to private businesses for marketing purposes and asked him to start reading down the columns with the price lists. He started reading then stopped and refused to read any more so I continued reading from my copy to avoid the dead air on the radio and he got very irate and accused me of making it up and and lying. I then explained to the listeners, I think I had more than one, that I also had my computer on the Census bureau web site and they could see the page on the station’s web page or they could go to the web address I gave out. The Census supervisor stormed out of the station and I never heard from him again. I’ll bet I’m on someone’s list.

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