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Court Case

Electronic Privacy Information Center v. United States Department of Commerce

The Electronic Privacy and Information Center filed a lawsuit challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census without having conducted Privacy Impact Assessments analyzing how citizenship data will be handled.

Published: June 17, 2019

Summary 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census without conducting and publishing Privacy Impact Assessments that analyze how citizenship data will be handled.

On June 28, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the plaintiffs lack standing and remanded the case to the district court to dismiss the case.

Case Background

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the United States Department of Commerce under the Administrative Procedure Act to compel the Department to create and publish Privacy Impact Assessments required by the E-Government Act of 2002. The plaintiffs contended that the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau failed to conduct and publicly release a “legally sufficient” Privacy Impact Assessment for the “collection, processing, and storage” of personally identifiable citizenship data on the 2020 Census.

The plaintiffs asked the court to enjoin the Commerce Department from including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census until the Department has published a “full and complete” Privacy Impact Assessment.

On January 18, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction. On February 11, the court denied the plaintiffs' request to enjoin the Commerce Department from including the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. 

On February 21, EPIC filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking the court to review the district court's decision to deny preliminary relief. Oral argument was heard on May 8, 2019. 

On June 28, 2019, the appeals court held that the plaintiffs lack standing and remanded the case to the district court to dismiss the case. 

On August 12, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking the court to grant the petition for rehearing, or in the alternative, modify or vacate the judgment of the panel.

Key documents

District Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case No. 19-5031)