Adam Marcus reports:
Seventy-two years ago, the federal government made a promise to the American public: “No one has access to your census record except you.”
So said a radio ad intended to promote participation in the 1940 census by assuaging privacy concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt even proclaimed, “No person can be harmed in any way by furnishing the information required. There need be no fear that any disclosure will be made regarding any individual or his affairs.”
Yet today, the government is posting online all 3.8 million pages of the 1940 census rolls for all to access — at no charge and with no need to register before viewing them. Eighty-seven percent of Americans can find a direct family link to one or more of the 132+ million people listed on those rolls. The 1940 census included 65 questions, with an additional 16 questions asked of a random 5 percent sample of people.
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