US legal opinion upheld privacy protections of census data

AP News
Posted: Feb 05, 2015 5:52 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A newly released legal opinion says the Commerce Department is not required to provide census data to federal law enforcement or national security investigators.

The Justice Department this week turned over a 2010 opinion from its Office of Legal Counsel after dropping a public records court fight with a privacy group.

The opinion was drafted in response to a request from the Commerce Department, which maintains census data, about whether it could be required under the Patriot Act to turn over the information. Federal law protects the confidentiality of census data.

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The opinion does not detail why the Commerce Department sought the legal guidance. But the fact the opinion was requested suggests that the federal government was looking to mine census data for law enforcement or national security investigations.