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The Census Bureau Is Keeping Your Data Safe

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Protecting the data the U.S. Census Bureau collects is a critical part of our mission and our highest priority. We know the accuracy of our statistics depends on the accuracy of the data we collect. This means that the public must be able to trust us with their data so the Census Bureau can provide quality data about the people and economy of the United States. Some recent conversations in the public raised concerns about what we are doing to secure your data specifically for the 2020 Census. Our response was to address these concerns directly at the Census Bureau’s next scheduled public forum, the 2020 Program Management Review, which was on August 3rd. My view of the underlying fear is “How do we know the Census Bureau is doing enough to protect our data if they are not saying enough about what they are doing?”

I want to stress that our team has been doing everything we can to protect the data, but we are intentionally not saying everything we are doing. Our team is comprised of the Census Bureau, the Census Advisory Committees, federal oversight, the Federal Intelligence Community, and our industry partners. Our team knows the playbook, our collective skills, and our roles on the team to get the 2020 Census ahead of the game in cybersecurity. We have not shared our plans for cybersecurity with the public intentionally to not give the opposing team, adversaries wanting to discredit the federal government, an advantage. This is an ongoing communications challenge in cybersecurity that we will continue to pursue to ensure public confidence and trust in the Census Bureau.

It is important to state that Data Stewardship is engrained throughout the fabric of our culture. Every Census Bureau employee knows the importance of protecting respondent information from the beginning, when a respondent answers, to the end, when the statistical data products are released. Data Stewardship is a team effort including the people, processes, cybersecurity, and technology working together to protect data as dictated by law in Title 13. This is not new to the Census Bureau and encompasses decades of practice, training and behavior.

We have collaborated and coordinated across the federal government and industry to design the systems collecting data for the 2020 Census to secure your data while offering a fluid and balanced user experience. We have designed systems that employ best practice security techniques within our cloud technology to layer the entry into our systems, isolate responses from each other, and lock down data in a vault as quickly as possible after it is submitted.

The operation of this design will help maintain the public’s trust in us by allowing the Census Bureau to contain cybersecurity issues as soon as they are detected to protect data, while sustaining data collection services so respondents may continue to confidentially respond to the 2020 Census. We have put in place solutions that safeguard your data by encrypting the information, limiting access, and actively monitoring our systems to make sure the information stays secure. We have worked with the federal intelligence community and industry to put in place processes and technology to strengthen our cybersecurity posture and improve our incident response capabilities to proactively identify, detect, protect, respond and recover from potential cybersecurity issues as a collective unit. We continually work with cybersecurity experts to keep the technology protected and will continue to assure the public that responding to the Census Bureau, especially for the 2020 Census, is easy, safe, and important.

Protection of your data is at the forefront of every decision we make at the Census Bureau. We take steps every day to protect your data. I recently described more in depth the areas in this blog and welcome you to review the recent 2020 Census Program Management Reviews (PMRs) if you want to learn more about how the Census Bureau is protecting your data.

August 3, 2018 –
2020 Census Program Management Review
2020 Census Cybersecurity Update
, Kevin Smith, Associate Director for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

April 20, 2018 –
2020 Census Program Management Review

Updates on Cybersecurity and Systems Readiness, Update on Cybersecurity; Validating and Ensuring Data Integrity; and Update on Systems Readiness, Kevin Smith, Associate Director for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer; and Atri Kalluri, Chief, Decennial Information Technology Division

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