Another Reason the Census Bureau Shouldn’t Collect Stories
I’m guessing the Census Bureau wants its road tour — which is collecting videos, photos, and personal stories — to build trust. When people get used to the idea of submitting a narrative to the bureau, they’ll also feel more comfortable filling out a form or speaking to a Census worker. The bureau doesn’t need your autobiography, but it does need to find out the size of your household. It’s hoping that sharing information in an enjoyable way will inspire you to cooperate when the time comes for the boring paperwork.
Making people more vulnerable to scams could be an unintended consequence of this strategy. We want people to remain cautious about giving out personal information. They shouldn’t be eager to share details of their lives the minute someone knocks on their door and claims to work for the Census.
And people should know that the Census asks for some kinds of information, like phone numbers, but not others, like credit card numbers. When the Census Bureau gathers videos and photos about life in general, it blurs the line between data that’s part of the Census and personal information you shouldn’t give out to just anyone.