D.C. Circuit Won’t Fix Deeply Flawed Ruling in EPIC’s Census Privacy Case
September 16, 2019
The D.C. Circuit has refused to void an earlier ruling in EPIC v. Commerce, EPIC's suit to halt the collection of citizenship data in the 2020 Census due to the government's failure to complete required privacy impact assessments. Under the E-Government Act, federal agencies must make privacy impact assessments "publicly available" before undertaking a new collection of personal data. Yet a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled that the statute does not "vest a general right of information in the public" that would allow EPIC—one of the leading privacy organizations in the country—to obtain information about the government's data collection practices. EPIC asked the full D.C. Circuit to take the rare step of revisiting the panel's decision, but the court declined. The case is eligible for appeal to the Supreme Court, which blocked the citizenship question from being added to the 2020 Census in June. EPIC's case is EPIC v. Commerce, No. 19-5031 (D.C. Cir.).