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June 23, 2005

Pentagon Hires Marketing Company To Create Massive Student Database to Target Potential Recruits

From The Washington Post:

    The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of all U.S. college students and high school students between 16 and 18 years old 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 an array of 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...

    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 data 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... 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...

    Chris Jay Hoofnagle, West Coast director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the system "an audacious plan to target-market kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation."

    The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without notifying citizens, to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress.

Posted by MikeBurke on June 23, 2005 | Permalink

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