WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Tuesday that she and 14 Senate colleagues called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to follow the law and protect the confidentiality of responses collected through the census.
According to recent news reports, DOJ officials had discussed potentially violating the confidentiality of personal data collected during the decennial census. In their letter to Attorney General William Bar, the Senators cited existing law that clearly protects the confidentiality of data collected through the census, and also warned that illegal data sharing can cause decreased participation in the census.
“With the start of peak census operations only 11 months away, we urge you to confirm that the Justice Department and all of its employees will uphold the airtight confidentiality protections for data collected in the census under current law,” the Senators wrote to Attorney General William Barr. “It is of utmost importance that the 2020 Census — a constitutionally mandated activity — be conducted in a full, fair, and accurate manner to count all persons in our country. Any attempt by the Justice or Commerce Departments to diminish the count of particular communities — even indirectly, through actions that agency officials reasonably should know will increase fear that census responses could be used to harm people or their families — would be in contravention of the U.S. Constitution.”
Along with Senator Gillibrand, the letter was signed by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).