Recently, Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina introduced HR 1638, The Census Reform Act of 2013. This bill aims to repeal the authority of the government to conduct mandatory and invasive census surveys. Congressman Duncan stated that many of his constituents believe the surveys are invasive and ask too many personal questions. Current US law states if an individual fails to fill out these surveys, they can face fines up to $5,000.
Duncan's legislation would eliminate these surveys and encourage a less invasive method of information gathering. "These surveys amount to legalized government harassment," said Duncan. "Right now the Census Bureau can ask citizens very invasive questions, and if they don't respond, the government shows up at their door and threatens them with a fine. Americans are fed up with these mandatory census surveys and they're asking us to stop the harassment."
While the fines are certainly a source of concern, others are worried about protecting their privacy. "While the Census Bureau already has a legal obligation to keep people's information confidential, we all know that in an age of cyber attacks and computer hacking that ensuring people's privacy can be difficult," Duncan said. "It's perfectly reasonable for someone to be hesitant to share their personal information with the government. The Census Bureau shouldn't be forcing anyone to share the route they take their kids to school, or any information other than how many people live in their home."
Unfortunately, South Carolinians are keenly aware of what can happen when government records fall into the wrong hands after over four million social security numbers, tax records and 387,000 credit/debit card numbers were stolen from the SC Department of Revenue last year by hackers; it remains the nation's largest hacking of a state agency.
Those who oppose Duncan's legislation claim that our nation would miss out on vital economic data. Duncan objects to this contention, and believes there are other ways to gather information that does not involve harassing or threatening individuals to turn over personal data. "As a former small business owner, I recognize that some economic data gathering is beneficial. However, it should be voluntary, industry driven, and not mandated by the government under penalty of law. I'm confident in our ability to develop innovative ways to gather information without harassing people, invading their privacy, or threatening them with fines. Americans are tired of too much government meddling in their daily lives."
Duncan said the inspiration of this bill came from multiple complaints from constituents in South Carolina since he has taken office. "One of my most important responsibilities is to listen. This is a major concern that people are sharing with representatives across the country, and I want them to know that their concerns are valid and being addressed. At the end of the day, we need to look at ways of gathering economic data that protects taxpayer's wallets and their personal privacy."