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Defending Democracy

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Over my career at the U.S. Census Bureau, I’ve always been impressed by the determined commitment to data confidentiality and security shown by every member of our team. We know how important the data we produce are to communities, businesses, organizations and the public. We also know that we cannot deliver world-class data if people and businesses do not feel comfortable sharing their information with us.  Therefore, we do everything we can to protect the information we receive so the public is confident responding to our censuses and surveys.

Our commitment is absolute, and we are tapping into every source of expertise available. We have strong relationships with government cybersecurity experts and are actively working with the private sector as well. I am pleased to announce that Microsoft has signed on as an official 2020 Census partner. Through Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, we are accessing a global program focused on protecting systems from hacking, disinformation and misinformation.

Without accessing data, Microsoft is helping us by providing training sessions with cybersecurity experts, conducting an audit of our security practices and providing us with threat intelligence and notifications.

The Defending Democracy Program was established in 2018 to make elections more secure as governments move toward electronic voting systems. The 2020 Census is an additional domain where Microsoft’s expertise can assist an activity fundamental to our democratic process — the decennial census.

The Defending Democracy Program helps governments improve account monitoring to protect against hacks by evaluating an organization’s systems to introduce safeguards. The program also maintains a network of independent organizations that work to fight propaganda and fake news to help combat disinformation and misinformation.

For the 2020 Census, the Defending Democracy Team has reviewed our threat posture to identify and introduce additional safeguards similar to those that have benefited recent elections. We are implementing a “Bing Answer” in Microsoft’s search engine that places an interactive graphic at the top of a website search that directs users to accurate, verified information about the 2020 Census. To help the public access legitimate information about the 2020 Census, we are jointly developing a list of search terms related to the Census Bureau and the 2020 Census so they can connect with census information more broadly. Finally, we are implementing a process to rapidly identify and address fake websites trying to represent the 2020 Census.

What’s more, Facebook just announced plans to put people, policies and technology in place to protect against interference. It is building a team dedicated to census efforts and introducing a new content policy designed to prevent misinformation about the census. Facebook’s plan includes using artificial intelligence and collaborating with the Census Bureau and other groups to promote participation in the census.

It is an honor to have the public’s trust and the responsibility of providing data that inform the very things we need each day — public transportation, health clinics and emergency services to name a few. As the world evolves, we will continue keeping pace with the latest threats.

This partnership with Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program is one of many steps we are taking, and we thank them for their engagement in and support of the 2020 Census.

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