Q&A: Cyber-security measures to be taken with first online Census

February 3, 2020 /

For the first time, people will be able to respond to the 2020 Census anytime and anywhere from any device, because it will be available online.

An accurate count in the 2020 Census is important because it helps determine how more than $675 billion in federal funds are spent annually across the United States. These funds are used for services such as emergency response and fire departments, and clinics and hospitals.

Results from the 2020 Census also determine congressional representation for each state and are used by states to draw state legislative and school district lines.

The U.S. Census Bureau said the new online Census “will make for the most modern and efficient census to date.”

To learn more about the online Census and the security measures the Census Bureau is taking to protect personal information, Kern Sol News reporter Gonzalo Rocha sat down with Angelica Vásquez, a Media Specialist and Spokesperson from the U.S. Census Bureau.

She has worked for the regional office in Los Angeles for the last few months. Vásquez enjoys her work because she feels that it is a way to give back to her community. She is happy to give back to her community.

Q: What security measures are being taken to protect people’s census information?

A: I’m going to give you a vision in general. First, the official date for the 2020 Census is April 1. However, in mid-March most households nationwide will receive a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau inviting them to respond to the 2020 questionnaire. There are three ways to respond to the 2020 Census: online, by phone, or by regular mail. The Census Bureau designed the information collection process with layers of security to keep information safe and secure. So, whether a person responds online, by phone, by mail, or if a census taker goes to their door to collect their information, that information will be kept secure throughout the process. When a census taker goes to collect responses in person, the technology they’ll use has the same security control and is fully compliant with the standards mandated for federal systems.

Q: What is the deadline to submit the census online?

A: The official day for the 2020 Census is April 1, but we are encouraging people to respond as soon as their household receives their invitation or letter in mid-March. They will then have until July to respond. However, if we don’t receive the responses of the household by the end of April, in May a Census taker will go door to door to collect their responses. So, it will take from May till July.

Q: What are the benefits to offering the census online?

A: It’s as safe as the other ways. The Census Bureau has a team of cyber-security experts who will monitor and protect all industry technology around the clock. This team meets the high standards for protecting federal services. From the moment we collect information, our goal and legal obligation is to keep them safe. We have the use of some security strategies like data encryption and system monitoring. While many of our defenses are invisible to the public, our multilayered cyber-security program gives us the best opportunity to prevent, detect, and recover from cyber threats.

Q: How do you think an online census will influence the response rates?

A: For the first time, all households nationwide will be able to respond online this 2020 Census. This is a huge resource that we have because it will provide an easier way to respond to the 2020 Census questionnaire because many people are connected online. So, we are pretty sure we are going to have a lot of responses through the internet.

Q: Are there any options for those who do not have access to the internet?

A: Yes, if someone does not have access to the internet there are two other ways to respond: by phone and by mail. If someone doesn’t self-respond, a Census taker will come to the door to help you respond. But, we have also partnered with the American Library Association which provides internet access in communities around the country for those who don’t have access to the internet. So, people can respond at their local library. We are also providing multiple resources for people to respond to the census: language guide, help center phone lines, and other resources to help people out in filling out the questionnaire. Also, responding online or by phone will have 12 non-English languages [Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Haitian Code] to choose from.

Q: Is there any assistance available for those who have trouble navigating the census online?

A: Yes, we will have help center phone lines so you can contact and respond through the phone and they will guide you through the 2020 Census questionnaire. But. It should be very easy. So, we doubt many people will have difficulties navigating the online questionnaire.

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Gonzalo Rocha

Gonzalo is a youth reporter for Kern Sol News. He is also a student at Bakersfield College.