Federal Manager's Daily Report

The Census Bureau “must improve its oversight” of equipment being used in the ongoing census, some of which already has gone missing and may contain sensitive information, the Commerce Department IG has said in a “management alert.”

The IG found that the Bureau was unaware that a dozen laptops that had been used in a now-completed field address canvassing operation had never been returned. Either when Bureau employees completed their work or at the end of the operation, the computers were supposed to be returned to a contractor to be wiped—and if one is determined to be missing, it is to be wiped via a remote command. However, the Bureau “cannot confirm that remote wipe commands sent to these laptop computers successfully removed census data from the devices,” it said.

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In addition to those laptops, the agency itself identified 70 that had not been returned, it said, and “there could be more devices that were used for in-field address canvassing and other decennial census field operations that were not returned and not properly identified” as missing. It found issues both at the contractor level and with the Bureau, including employees who “missed reading and acting on e-mails” about missing computers because they were too busy with other tasks.

Control over equipment is crucial, it added, given that the nonresponse follow‐up operation now underway includes about 585,000 smartphones and tablets which “could be more vulnerable to loss and theft.”

Because the report was a management alert it did not make recommendations but said that agency and contractor officials did recently start weekly meetings to on the issue of lost, missing or stolen devices.

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