Feb 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Experts raise concerns about new census tech in wake of Iowa

The Census Bureau is behind its goal of recruiting 2.6 million applicants
The Census Bureau is behind its goal of recruiting 2.6 million applicants, a Government Accountability Office report said Wednesday. Graphic: GAO

The Government Accountability Office, the Census Bureau's inspector general and some lawmakers doubt whether the U.S. census, which begins its every-10-year count next month, is ready for prime time, AP's Mike Schneider writes.

Why it matters: The Census Bureau plans to try out a lot of new technology, but some of it is not fully tested.

  • There's a mobile app for census takers who visit the homes of residents who have not filled out the forms by May. Bureau officials are still working to find out why the app sometimes needs to be restarted or reinstalled for it to work properly, according to the GAO.

Cybersecurity is another worry. The census is an attractive target for anyone seeking to sow chaos and undermine confidence in the U.S. government, as Russia did in 2016.

  • In a worst-case scenario, vital records could be deleted or polluted.

The big picture: The Census Bureau says "all systems are go":

  • "The agency promises that responses to the questionnaire will be kept confidential through encryption, and that it's working with the Department of Homeland Security and private-sector security experts to thwart cyber attacks," per AP.
  • The bureau is blocking foreign IP addresses and stopping bots from filling out forms.

What's next: "Between March 12 and March 20, invitations to participate in the 2020 Census will start arriving in households across the country," according to the Census Bureau.

Go deeper: Census data projects shift in states' congressional power

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