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I'm having trouble finding it but the perfect example of this is a census that collected religious affiliation (for innocent statistics) that some brave citizens went to great lengths to destroy when they came under Nazi occupation in order to try and protect Jewish residents.

Another example would be the internment/deportation of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during WW2. I'll bet when they were ticking the 'Japanese ancestry' box on their census form they had no idea they were signing up for future imprisonment without due cause or due process.


Related Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Ameri...

Might be worth noting that children that were in these camps are still alive today.

@idlewords has a few examples here: http://idlewords.com/talks/haunted_by_data.htm

e.g. A gay Russian who opens a LiveJournal account in 2004. Before LJ is bought by a russian company and russia becomes more homophobic.

While an interesting story, I don't think it is as meaningful as people try to make it here. Sure, the census might have helped Nazis quite a lot in committing atrocities. But it doesn't mean the census wasn't genuinely useful, and - more generally - you can't make day-to-day decisions on the assumption that you'll get invaded and conquered by extermination-minded people.

Are you allowed to weigh the benefits versus the costs of participating? To whom were the stats "genuinely useful"?

You don't need to weigh things against extermination explicitly, just any bad consequence, including political ones.

You are basically asking about the usefulness of demography in the society. I think it's pretty easy to imagine plenty of uses.


> it's pretty easy to imagine plenty of uses

To all individuals equally? weighed against individual risk?

Here are some things people were targeted over in the past:

- generic wealth level - generic education level - living in a particular area of the country - disabilities - having small children

You could probably find more examples like those if you browse the history of humanity. The point is, you can be targeted over anything, and you can't predict what it will be in advance. The Nazis exterminated members of religious minorities and different sexual orientation, which was somewhat unusual in history. The Soviets killed people with high educational credentials and with lots of wealth. Who knows what the next evil empire will pick as an excuse to murder people?

You can't run a society on the assumption it's doomed and everyone will get massacred. That some particular demographical data will be used to select and murder people is a low-probability hypothetical. That it is useful for managing a country right now is a fact. I get one not wanting to be oversharing about oneself, but I don't think that a remote possibility that a piece of demographic data will be used for evil purposes is grounds for ditching censuses altogether. This is not something we should be paranoid about.

I didn't make the Nazi comparison, and in fact I think it's a straw man. EVerything that concerns you about US/corporate data collection wrt social networks, internet monitoring/prism, mass surveillance etc, is also a concern with statistics collection.

Finding yourself questioned, monitored, surveilled, on any kind of "list" (no-fly, hollywood-black) or at any kind of increased risk or action by any actor, state or otherwise, is a risk to be weighed against whatever gain you might make from accurate stats.

> Who knows what the next evil empire will pick as an excuse to murder people?

An argument for giving up less discriminating information in general.

> You can't run a society on the assumption it's doomed and everyone will get massacred.

Much of the US constitution seems centered on protecting the people from an overly powerful government, and restricting said power. Make this sentence less hyperbolic, and you can run a society based on certain assumptions of corruption and abuse.

Suspect this is the link you have in mind:


It's cropped up on HN before.

The Netherlands. Directly affected Anne Frank's family, among others.

While it makes a nice story, if you think that lacking this information would have seriously slowed down the Holocaust you are sadly mistaken.

That is actually not correct. You should read "IBM and the Holocaust" to get a good account on exact that - there are good comparisons of countries that had very detailed census (typically "more organized" northern European) like Holland, where the majority of jewish population got killed, while in other countries like France it was as "low" as 25%.

In France in particular there is the example of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Carmille René Carmille, who was in charge of census and actively sabotaged the collection and use of data.

See also http://theinstitute.ieee.org/technology-focus/technology-his... which calls Carmille one of the first hackers:

"After the invasion, the pro-Nazi Vichy government ordered a nationwide census. Carmille requested the assignment of compiling data from the census forms onto tabulator cards for analysis. His group transferred the data, including information from Column 11—where citizens were asked to indicate their religion—onto tabulator cards. They were instructed by the Nazis to sort the cards and print a list of all Jews living in France so that they could be located and sent to concentration camps.

Over the course of two years, Carmille and his group purposely delayed the process by mishandling the punch cards. He also hacked his own machines, reprogramming them so that they’d never punch information from Column 11 onto any census card. Instead, Carmille’s groups spent most of their time using the information on the cards to find and recruit former French soldiers for the French Resistance."

If that's not hacking and data protection, then I don't know what is.

Why would citizens accurately report a prohibited (or highly disfavored) religion? I can understand using existing census data, but a new census, after it's obvious what the government wants, seems not-so-useful?

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