A lot has changed since the 1940 US Census, as data is expected to reveal as it is newly released this morning.
Held in confidence for 72 years (considered at the time to be sufficiently indicative of the average lifespan for a man in the US), the data became available this morning for genealogy buffs and anyone else with an interest in life in America seven decades ago.
Twenty-one million Americans whose data is included in the census (Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood among them) are part of the sample of individuals whose information was used to compile the 16th federal decennial census, and some privacy advocates point to such a circumstance as a reason that perhaps census data shouldn’t be released even when the better part of a century has been and gone.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is one such entity, and the organization believes that such data should be restricted heavily, citing new technologies for which the implications are not fully known. Addressing today’s info dump, ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley says:
“Computer technology today allows you to take information from different sources and combine it into a very high resolution image of somebody’s life. Each particular piece of information might just be one pixel. But when brought together, they become very intrusive.”
However, others cite the sheer age of the data (culled from a time when a man’s yearly salary averaged less than $1,000) as a detriment to identity theft and other crimes endemic in 2012. Privacy consultant Robert Gellman told the AP that “nobody [is] out there complaining about 70-year-old records being used against them.” Yet, Mr. Gellman.
In response to concerns about the release of the 1940 US Census data, the US National Archives confirms that no social security numbers were collected at the time of the census.