Friday, April 20, 2007

Oops! ... I didn't do it.

Dear Leader

Oh, WOW!

This is HUGE! Do you know how HARD we at the Census Bureau try to keep sensitive information from being leaked out to the public? After all, that is our charge: maintaining your privacy intact. Otherwise, why give us your information for the Decennial Census?

I guarantee you that I will hear of this on Monday. I have been working on a program to remove any vestiges of personal information from our corporate address database (phone numbers, Social Security numbers, proper names, etc.). You see, VARCHAR2 fields are nasty things. These are columns in a database in which anything can be placed in the cell. When our Field Enumerators ask you for your phone number (something he should NOT do), he may place it in the throwaway "Location Description" or Comments column (either on the paper form or the digital hand-held/laptop device). 99.9% of this stuff is automated once the information is keyed, and we don't know - can't know - of what came from the field until much later.

But at least it's in our corporate database, something that cannot be accessed by the general public. However, when other agencies use our data, they MUST follow our own privacy laws. Putting this shit on the Internet is so incredibly stupid, and we at the Census end up looking like complete jackasses. Plus, it makes the Federal Government look like some efficient totalitarian/Orwellian enterprise when - trust me - it's really not that smart. The Federal Government is not Big Brother. It's more like Lenny, from Of Mice and Men.

Yeah, well anyway: Monday is gonna suck.


Allum Barstansangur said...

back to work apparatchik!

In soviet database, information steals you!

LOL yeah, social security numbers freely available...oh man, whose heads do you think will roll over this data screw up?

ALT - [f r a m e s] said...

I am not sure whose head will roll. Our current Director is being forced out already because some laptops were stolen last year. It's not really his fault. I mean, c'mon: when you hire anybody as Field Enumerators and you give them a souped up laptop to use, it's more than likely that some of will be stolen.

Allum Barstansangur said...

Why on earth they aren't using truecrypt or some other HD encryption I don't least then if it was stolen, it wouldn't matter, the data would be unrecoverable.