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US to make accessible spatial component of census

US: The US Census Bureau is considering to endorsing repealing sections of federal law under Title 13 to allow the release of its nationwide address database, Federal Computer Week reported. The census would support public release of addresses but not names, phone numbers, ages or any other personal information collected by the census, Michael Ratcliffe, assistant division chief for geocartographic products in the bureau’s geography division, said during the 2011 Geospatial Summit in Herndon, US.

Under Title 13, all information collected by the census must be kept confidential to preserve privacy rights. This covers names, phone numbers, addresses and geospatial coordinates, among other data. But, Google and other Internet companies display nearly every street address in the country publicly on the Web through a sharing of private address databases. Ratcliffe added that “because of the unavailability of such data in the census, local agencies are not able to leverage common address information and they operate with inefficiencies and gaps in their address databases.”

By repealing sections of Title 13, the census would be able to release its data publicly and to state and local agencies. “The census bureau is willing to talk about a repeal,” Ratcliffe said. “A few years ago, the answer would have been ‘no.’ Now, we are willing.”

“The payoff would be greater efficiency,” Ratcliffe continued. “We could leverage local, state and federal coordination for addresses.”

Audience members at the geospatial summit noted that many states and communities are spending large sums of money to develop and maintain accurate and up-to-date address databases that are critical for public safety, police and fire services.

They also noted the difficulties of sharing address information across borders, recognising that each locality may store its address information in a different electronic format. If the census releases a nationwide database of addresses, presumably that would lead to greater interoperability of address information.

Source: FCW