The Pentagon vs. Student Privacy
There is an interesting article in the Washington Post today. The Pentagon is contracting with a outside firm to create a database of information on 16 to 18 year olds in the country. This will be used for recruiting purposes by the military.
Privacy advocates are of course protesting. Does anyone realize the dangers we face today? A group of experts just the other day said there was a 50-70% chance of a WMD attack over the next 10 years. IN THIS COUNTRY. The database I just see as a way of helping the recruit the people they need. Its not like anyone joins the service involuntarily. We don't have a draft plus how much privacy do we really have? In this technology age the true answer is very little.
The whole Washington Post story can be found at- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/22/AR2005062202305.html
Pentagon Creating Student Database
Recruiting Tool For Military Raises Privacy Concerns
By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.
The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.
The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.
"The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service," according to the official notice of the program.
Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.
Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country.
School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said the issue has "generated a great deal of angst" among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.
Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data brokers, state drivers' license records and other sources, including information already held by the military.
"Using multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of eligible candidates to join the military," according to written statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in response to questions. "This program is important because it helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services' recruiting and retention efforts."
The Pentagon's statements added that anyone can "opt out" of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be kept in a separate "suppression file." That file will be matched with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon.
But privacy advocates said using database marketers for military recruitment is inappropriate.
"We support the U.S. armed forces, and understand that DoD faces serious challenges in recruiting for the military," a coalition of privacy groups wrote to the Pentagon after notice of the program was published in the Federal Register a month ago. "But . . . the collection of this information is not consistent with the Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress to reduce the government's collection of personal information on Americans."