John Abowd is an executive senior advisor for the Research and Methodology Directorate and is the former associate director for research and methodology, and chief scientist, a position he held from June 2016 to October 2022. The Research and Methodology Directorate leads critical work to modernize our operations and products. Abowd is an internationally renowned scholar whose research on privacy and statistical disclosure limitation helps the Census Bureau improve products and honor the commitment to confidentiality of data. His long association with the Census Bureau began in 1998 when he joined the team of distinguished research fellows that helped found the longitudinal employer-household dynamics program. In 2008, he led the team that created the world’s first application of a differentially private data protection system for the program’s OnTheMap job location tool.
He is currently leading the agency’s efforts to create a differentially private disclosure avoidance system for the 2020 Census and future data products. The 2020 Census is the world’s first large-scale data product to use the new safeguards. The system will provide formula-driven, finely calibrated protection against attempts to re-identify individuals in the statistics we publish. These emerging threats are a consequence of today’s powerful computers, advances in data science, and the proliferation of easily accessible “Big Data” outside our control. Abowd joined the faculty of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1987. He is the Edmund Ezra Day Professor emeritus of economics, statistics and data science.