The Pentagon has teamed up with a little-known marketing firm named BeNOW to create a massive new database to help military recruiters target potential recruits.
According to government records the database covers all high school students 16 years or older; current college students; anyone who has responded to recruiting ads since 1992; current military personnel and anyone in the process of enlisting.
The database includes 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 Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Civil Liberties have both slammed the proposal as a violation of the Privacy Act. (The ACLU described the database as “another example of the government’s rampant and unregulated collection and use of our personal information.”)
But little has been written about the private firm BeNOW that will be overseeing this massive database containing personal information about tens of millions of young people.
According to the BeNOW website, the Wakefield, Massachusetts-based company works on database marketing plans with Tower Records, Saab and MetLife. A look at the company’s work with Tower Records may provide a clearer idea of how the Pentagon will use this new database to help market the military to young people.
Earlier this year Tower issued a press release touting its new relationship with BeNOW titled “Tower Records Tunes Into Customers With BeNOW”:
Working with BeNOW, Tower Records will gather and consolidate customer information into a multi-channel marketing database that will allow more targeted communications and build customer relationships as part of its commitment to strengthening its image as a customer-centric company.
BeNOW`s MVP technology solution will deliver a single customer view using Tower stores and online data sources, increasing customer value while enlarging the company`s customer database.
Tower Records can then more easily tailor its direct marketing efforts, supported by advanced reporting, analytics and execution applications, and based on refined customer profiles as determined through BeNOW`s technology.
The BeNOW’s ties to Tower Records also raises questions over whether the Pentagon would tap into these “customer profiles” created by BeNOW for Tower to get a better picture of potential recruits.
Will the database include info on your recent CD and DVD purchases?
And what other commercial databases will be used? (The Washington Post reported this morning “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.”)
The Electronic Privacy Information Center has criticized the Pentagon for its planned use of commercial vendors for data on potential recruits.
“The DOD should not obtain personal information from commercial vendors when the same data can be obtained from data subjects through surveys or interactions with recruiter,” the group warns. “Commercial sellers of personal information are major threats to personal privacy, they maintain inaccurate databases, and as recent events make clear, they sometimes sell personal information to criminals. The DOD should not be in the business of enriching these companies while significant attention is being focused on them by state attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission, and the media.”