On April 14, a fellow Nebraskan located in the rural, northeast part of the state reported to me that Census workers are using a hand held device that looks like the signing device carried by UPS workers to log citizens’ GPS coordinates.
Keep in mind the official Census doesn’t begin until 2010.
As the census worker approached the front door of the home, he was logging the information into the device. Apparently, the census information being taken is being tied to the GPS coordinates. Obviously, the information is going to be uploaded to a central database.
What on earth would the government need to log your GPS location for?
My friend questioned the Census Bureau worker closely. He asked the worker directly what he was doing with the hand held device and the worker stated he was logging the GPS coordinates of the residence. He stated that he was doing this everywhere he went and that Census Bureau workers across the country were doing the same.
He noted that workers had been instructed to log the GPS coordinates of anything that looked like a dwelling, including park benches and cardboard boxes.
He particularly questioned the worker about why it was being done. The reply was not helpful or comforting. The worker said he had signed a binding agreement that he could not discuss the project with anyone, including his wife.
Clearly, this kind of intricate system with the hand held devices could not have been devised overnight, and certainly not since the Stimulus Bill was passed on February 17.
We have to ask ourselves what the Federal Government would be doing logging all our locations when the Census isn’t even supposed to begin for almost a year and why would they need to pinpoint location so specifically?
I received a comment on my original post of this story from another Nebraskan:
I thought it was strange when I had a visit from a Census Bureaucrat Fiday. When he knocked on my door I was so preoccupied with making the badges for the Tea Party that it didn’t occur to me to ask questions. He acted kinda nervous so I just grabbed the paper he was handing me and closed the door.
It was a strange situation. When I looked out the window he was still hanging around on my driveway looking around the side of my house. Went to get the phone to dial 911 and when I got back to the window he was gone.
Nebraska is definitely not the only state where this is occurring. I have spoken with several other people, one of whom was in California. On April 24, that gentleman reported his sister had been “visited” by a Census Bureau Worker.
The sad thing is, she thought perhaps she was being specifically targeted. The fellow hadn’t heard about these coordinate mapping activities occurring elsewhere. At least he can assure his sister she is not a “target”.
That little anecdote is noteworthy in that it is the example of how something doesn’t “feel right” about government workers logging in peoples’ coordinates. People should not feel they are being watched by their government.
Add to it the DHS report on “right-wing extremists” and what you have for some people at least, is a feeling that they are being intimidated.
I have received additional comments on other venues where this post has appeared:
Speaking for myself only:
1. The Bureau is conducting an address canvassing operation now in order to know where to send or deliver questionnaires and what kind of questionnaire to deliver to each location (college dorms and nursing homes aren’t done the same way as houses and apartments).
2. There are some parts of the country where locations don’t correspond to mailing addresses (PO Box or Rural Route areas). The Bureau sends enumerators to hand-deliver questionnaires unless a mailing address can be obtained. Likewise, enumerators come out to residences to follow up on unclear or missing information. A GPS fix gives them an accurate means of locating the residence.
3. The map spots help place people in the right census tracts (statistical areas) so that state legislatures can complete the 2011 redistricting properly.
4. Census data associated with a particular person or address, including map spots, are covered by 13 U.S.C. § 9. They are made available only to sworn Census employees on a need-to-know basis. Sharing these data with ANYONE, including other government agencies, carries a $250,000 fine and a prison sentence.
The above is clearly well thought out. I appreciate that very much. I do have trouble with the following:
The Bureau is conducting an address canvassing operation now in order to know where to send or deliver questionnaires and what kind of questionnaire to deliver to each location (college dorms and nursing homes aren’t done the same way as houses and apartments).
Fair enough. If the sole purpose of logging GPS coordinates is to know where to deliver a questionnaire, why are park benches and cardboard boxes being logged? Are they really going to deliver questionnaires to these locations?
It has nothing to do with Big Brother. I’m one of those Census workers you are worried about. All we’re doing–and it’s not a secret–is updating and correcting the bureau’s address database, to ensure that surveys are sent out to existing addresses. We’re not recording any personal info about the people living at the addresses. The gps coordinates are tied to addresses, not people. One of the uses will be, eventually, to help Census takers–sent to follow up at households that don’t mail back their surveys–find the addresses they are sent to visit. That’s it. Honestly.