This information
May 29, 2000 10:48 PM   Subscribe

This information was supposed to be private, wasn't it?
posted by thirteen (12 comments total)
They can't be selling census data. It seems to be a regular marketing data reselling company. They just use the word "Census" in the CD title. I'd imagine that it's like you or I starting a company called the "I.R.S. USA" or whatever.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:54 PM on May 29, 2000

I'm not so sure either way on this one. I think they might be able to sell census info on an area wide basis (which is the way it would be provided to them in this case) and not on an individual basis. In other words, it would be private to the extent that someone could not look you up specifically.
posted by howa2396 at 10:58 PM on May 29, 2000

Find in-depth census information on any community in the U.S., right down to a 5-digit ZIP Code

Zip codes are a pretty poor level of granularity on this sort of thing... I'd expect at least census tract.

But I believe howa has it right... Your individual data are private, but aggregate statistical data are public.
posted by aurelian at 12:21 AM on May 30, 2000

Agreed. Stuff at this aggregate level is available at your local library, often in online or CD-ROM form. Just ask your friendly reference librarian what sort of census data they have available.
posted by bradlands at 1:24 AM on May 30, 2000

Quite correct. "Jay Ashworth is white, and 35 years old, and lives in a rented house, alone" is privileged information. "33709 has a median income of $22,000, and a median age of 58, and is 65% owner-occupied, 75% with more than one resident per household", however, is *not*, and that's what the Census data that's available is.

As Hal notes above, it would be surprising if they didn't break it down further, but at the moment, the data being sold is about 10 years old, so maybe it's actually not that surprising after all.

*I* liked the little Microsoft "Home" logo in the corner of the pages, myself.
posted by baylink at 6:53 AM on May 30, 2000

Much of the data IS updated. The census is constnatly running interim body counts as well as evaluating demographic trends, especially in fast-growing areas. In some cases states and municipalities pay for the new counts.

What is often done is overlaying census data with other household data from private sources on a block-by-block basis. Current census data to that level is even available online. So what you'd be buying with this CD-ROM I hope would be supplemented, but then again, it's handy just to have it collated certain ways. Compare with the official government product, along with related official products.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 AM on May 30, 2000

Census data is free to all. There are several companies< that republish it (in either electronic or print format) for whomever might want to buy it.
posted by yo at 9:35 AM on May 30, 2000

I worked in real estate (I hate to admit) for a while, and you could probably find out more information off the tax rolls than this cd provides.

Working in Integrated Marketing (fancy-schmancy for we do a lot of different crap) we buy lists like these frequently - they're benign, and nothing to worry about. It just makes sure that our clients send you the more appropriate junk mail.
posted by thinkdink at 9:46 AM on May 30, 2000

I understand the census to be a count for congressional representation. I find it infuriating to be threatened by law to fill out a survey that will be made available to people who wanna sell me stuff. I did not fill out my census form, and had a mildly-heated discussion with the census worker who called me to find out why I was not reponding to her notes asking me to call her. I was not mean to her, she became nasty in the face of my polite non-compliance. I do not think they should be gathering this information, and certainly not distributing it once gathered.
posted by thirteen at 1:04 PM on May 30, 2000

It's not strictly for marketing, thirteen. Census data is also fundamental to much medical and sociological research and it allocates federal funds in fair proportions.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:54 PM on May 30, 2000

Fair proportions sounds like wealth redistribution to me. My state (Illinois) is a donor state, the federal government takes a great deal more money from us than it returns. I have no animosity towards the smaller states for whom my money is being spent, but I feel no burning desire to pay for their fire departments either. I believe if the tax numbers were inverted, local governments would be able to pay for their own utilities quite nicely. Federal government would also be more closely tied to our needs, as it would have less money to spend.
I support the idea of research, and would vote to fund it were I ever given a chance to do so. If my countrymen were too stupid to support such things, they deserve to suffer the lack of results. We live in a republic out of necessity, we could become a true democracy if we demand it. I also know the Bell Labs created more things of value to me than the government ever did (acknowloging the fact that much of it was done at the governments behest). I have no problem with Mo Nickels support of this system, I respect it. My problem is that the systems changes and excludes our voice, and I am compelled to obey. I am also sorry if my last response seemed to be an angry reply to thinkdink, it was not meant to be.
posted by thirteen at 2:51 PM on May 30, 2000

By "the system changes", I meant that the census was supposed to collect raw numbers, and has now become this barometer that means so much to everybody that it is selfish to withold support. Our congress men okay'd it, so we should go along with it, to complicated for us to be told why. I feel the same way about our social security numbers having become out universal tracking system. It was supposed to be for the social security only, and now you cannot get a bank account or a telephone without one. People think your a kook if you won't give it to them. Im not angry (well alittle angry maybe), I just want to hold the line.
posted by thirteen at 2:59 PM on May 30, 2000

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