Census of population = invasion of people’s privacy?
According to the elementary civics textbook I’ve edited recently, through census, the government obtains information from their constituents that may be useful in making policy proposals and pertinent programs. The National Statistics Office is the government body with the mandate to conduct a nationwide census every five years (or more accurately, when funding is available).
Apparently, even local governments can also conduct census in their respective sphere of influence. Early this September, a guy in his 20s knocked in our gate and told us that he’ll be doing a census for the Quezon City government. It was a Sunday morning, and we let him do the interview in our garage. My mother is the true respondent here, though I was at her side throughout the interview. (PS: I got the name of this field interviewer, but to protect his privacy, I am not posting it here.)
I have experienced seeking out respondents for a survey during my college days, and since I know it’s no easy task, I tried to be as cooperative as possible. The guy had a four-page questionnaire, and the entire interview lasted for almost an hour, but that is not my beef here. I believe the question-and-answer part would’ve lasted that long had they not asked questions which, if one looks closer, can actually be considered an invasion of privacy.
Some questions include:
1. How much our family spends for food, transportation, and medicine each week
2. The appliances that we own
3. The government IDs that we have, and
4. If my mom used birth-control methods (and if I was born in the CS section or what)
One lesson I learned in constructing survey questionnaires is that one should never ask about information not relevant to his/her study for better analysis of the data gathered. Here are my questions:
1. Why do they have to ask all of that?
2. What are they going to do with the tons of information they have obtained?
3. How can asking about all of those help in policy making?
Unless Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista can answer these questions adequately, then I stand by my belief that the census that he initiated is a clear invasion of privacy. In these grounds, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, is right in his opposition to government-sponsored census of population. According to him: “If the government really wants to increase compliance with the census, it should abide by the Constitution and limit its inquiry to one simple question: How many people live here?”
Source: Ron Paul: Why I voted against encouraging people to complete Census form (from Houston Chronicle)