The regular release of responses to census questions has just occurred, outing people who in 1940 never expected their information would be put out on something called an internet. Most of those data will likely be seen as pretty tame (and of course a lot of folks aren’t around to have seen the effect by now.) More people will find that responses had been given about them – children of household heads, for example – and we’re looking forward to the surprises that may come from comparing data with those of other sources. Into what religion were you really born? Where did you really live? How about those long-told family stories about one’s roots?
It was only since the 1940 census that our government started to expand data collection from nose counts to all sorts of very personal traits intended to help justify our government (or at least its bloated size.) We’re only 40 or 50 years from people alive today – and potentially alive then – having lots of zestier data released about gender, living conditions, employment and a variety of things that they might not yet be eager to put on Facebook.