ACLU Applauds New Census Policy on Privacy, Move Restricts Sharing of Ethnic Data With Law Enforcement

August 31, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the Census Bureau’s announcement that – as the ACLU had urged earlier — it would no longer provide data about “politically sensitive” populations to law enforcement or intelligence agencies without the review and approval of high-ranking Bureau officials. The ACLU had called for just such a step in an August 5 letter to Bureau Director Charles Louis Kincannon.

“The Census Bureau’s action is an important step in building confidence that the Census will not again become entangled in government efforts to engage in monitoring of certain racial and ethnic minorities,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Serious questions remain about why the Department of Homeland Security wanted the information in the first place,” added Murphy.

The bureau came under criticism from the ACLU and other groups in July when it was revealed that it had provided data about Americans of Arab descent to the Department of Homeland Security.

As the ACLU noted in its August 5 letter, these questions arise “at a time and in a context where government security agencies have interrogated, fingerprinted, and detained thousands of people based on their ethnicity – policies targeted at Arabs.” The letter goes on to say that the government should not return to “the previous period of widespread governmental targeting of specific individuals based on their ethnicity, the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.”

The ACLU said that it would like to see creation of more explicit guidelines for the process of review to which future requests will be subject, as well as a policy making such requests public. It also renewed its call for the bureau to create a new outside body to advise it on privacy and civil liberties issues committee.

More information about the ACLU’s letter to Kincannon can be found at:
/node/10882

The ACLU’s letter to Kincannon is available at:
/SafeandFree/interviews/census_letter.pdf

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