danah boyd on Privacy in the 2020 Census

03 Feb, 2020

danah boyd on Privacy in the 2020 Census

danah boyd published a paper, "Differential Privacy in the 2020 Decennial Census and the Implications for Available Data Products," which is available on SSRN for viewing.

boyd analyzed the US Census Bureau's approach to 2021 statistical tables, based on the decennial census conducted in 2020. She questions the confidentiality and anonymity of individuals represented in these tables, given its departure from traditional methods of disclosure avoidance.

According to the abstract:

Given the importance of the Census Bureau’s statistical tables to democracy, resource allocation, justice, and research, confusion about what differential privacy is and how it might alter or eliminate data products has rippled through the community of its data users, namely: demographers, statisticians, and census advocates.

The purpose of this primer is to provide context to the Census Bureau’s decision to use a technique based on differential privacy and to help data users and other census advocates who are struggling to understand what this mathematical tool is, why it matters, and how it will affect the Bureau’s data products.