(HorizonPost.com) – Every 10 years, Article I, §2, Clause 3 of the US Constitution requires the federal government to determine the country’s population of — aka the census. As technology has developed, a wealth of personal information has become accessible through the Internet. Now, a battle is brewing between those who want the most accurate numbers and those who value personal privacy.
/1. Yesterday at the ACS Data Users Conference, the Census Bureau described its plans to replace the American Community Survey (ACS) microdata with “fully synthetic” data over the next three years. pic.twitter.com/8btLxiA3iM
— Steven Ruggles (@HistDem) May 21, 2021
For the 2020 iteration, the Census Bureau has already decided to intentionally put “small errors” into the information they collect, and they’re now exploring the idea of using “synthetic data.” A demographic scientist, Nicholas Nagel, explained the idea and a related one called “differential privacy.”
According to Nagel, rather than reporting exact numbers as they’ve been collected and collated, numbers that are relatively close to the accurate ones are randomly substituted.
Researchers who work in related fields to Nagel have expressed concern about manipulating the accuracy of statistics which affect so much, like divvying up federal funds. Meanwhile, privacy advocates cheer for anything that might keep a person as anonymous as possible.
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