NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Does CBO Want Too Much Personal Information?

October 16, 2000

Some federal agencies are resisting a request by the Congressional Budget Office to supply it with federal census and tax records. CBO claims it needs the information to assess the impact of Social Security and Medicare reform proposals before Congress.

  • CBO Director Dan L. Crippen says he would accept other agencies' confidentiality requirements and would not identify any individuals whose data was used, but needs a "linked data set" -- which means records on the same set of people from the Internal Revenue Service, two Census Bureau surveys and the Social Security Administration.
  • But Census Bureau officials contend the law requires outside uses of individual census record to benefit the Census Bureau -- which disclosure to the CBO would not.
  • CBO says it needs the data "quite soon" and some key Republican lawmakers support its request.
  • But officials of organizations such as the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, which ran an extensive campaign during the 2000 census to assure people that their replies were confidential, describe themselves as "tremendously troubled" by the CBO proposal.

David Sobel, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says he fears the CBO proposal would lead to "usage creep." Once one exception has been made to what has been represented as an air-tight prohibition of secondary uses of information, he explains, "you are potentially opening the floodgates."

Source: D'Vera Cohn, "CBO Request for Census, Tax Records Raises Fears," Washington Post, October 13, 2000.


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