Fritch man calls governmental survey 'invasive'

If you've ever been worried about the government finding out your personal information, you probably won't like some of the questions asked by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Three million residences are chosen to participate in the survey each year. This year, Fritch resident, Michael Adams is one of them.

"The Census Bureau does not need to know how much money I make or my mortgage payment of my insurance payment or what time I go to work," said Adams.

Adams, who initially three the survey in the trash thinking it was a scam, found many of the questions the survey asked to be too personal. Some included questions about salary, about children, or even as seemingly random as whether his bathroom had a bathtub or a shower.

"What time and minute I go to work every morning," he read to Pronews 7 from the survey. "They want to know my marital status, how many times I've been married. There's other ways to go about this than asking all these personal questions."

Adams isn't the only one concerned with the nature of the questions, either. Janna Kiehl with the Better Business Bureau Amarillo Branch said they receive many calls about the survey ever year.

"We do get questions about the types of questions on the survey because they are very personal, they are very detailed, a lot more detailed than the regular census," Kiehl explained. "A lot of people that are concerned asking is this indeed from the Census Bureau and do I have to answer it, fill it out and send it back?"

The answer to that questions is "yes". The survey is legitimate and chosen participants are required to fill it out and mail it back it. While many feel the Census Bureau doesn't actually need some of that information, officials with the American Community Survey were quick to explain, the information gathered isn't just used by the Bureau.

"This improves the ability of federal agencies to allocate finding and state and local governments to plan," explained Chief of the American Community Survey Coordinating Staff, Scott Boggess. "So they have a particular need for data and we collect that data for them and then release that data that allows them to use that tin funding formulas."

For example, the Department of Transportation would use collected data about what time individuals leave for work, where they live, or where they work to get a better idea of who is on the roads at what time. They would then use that information to distribute highway funds for the construction or repairs of transportation routes.

Because participants are legally bound to fill out the survey to the best of their ability, there are penalties for not doing so. However, Boggess said the Bureau rarely goes after anyone who does not respond, they simply ask that you fill out the questions you feel comfortable answering and leave the others blank.

"We tend not to go after people who don't respond. We'd much rather someone who gets a questionaire and there were two or three questions on there that they felt uncomfortable answering, answer the rest and mail that back in rather than they just throw it in the trash," he said.

Those who don't mail the survey back in are often then contacted by phone. If that effort doesn't work, ACS will then sometimes send someone to visit their home in person to try to collect the data. Those methods of completing the survey, Boggess said, cost the government much more money than it would if someone just mailed in a completed survey.