Privacy Watchdogs Calls on Pentagon To Scrap New Recruiting Database

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A coalition of privacy advocacy groups have called for the Pentagon to scrap its new database to track potential recruits as young as 16. The database is being run by the Pentagon’s Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies and the Massachusetts-based marketing firm BeNow and 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.

Groups opposing the database include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Consumer Action, Privacy Activism, Commercial Alert, Privacy Journal, World Privacy Forum, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Junkbusters.

In a joint statement the groups write:

    We support the U.S. Armed Forces, and understand that DOD faces serious challenges in recruiting for the military.  But we strongly object to the creation of this Joint Advertising database.  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.  The collection of individuals’ Social Security Numbers presents risks to privacy, and is unnecessary for operation of the database. The “routine uses” for disclosure of information in the database is unjustified.  The DOD proposes to ignore the law and its own regulations by collecting personal information from commercial data brokers and state registries rather than directly from individuals.

    This database represents an unprecedented foray of the government into direct marketing techniques previously only performed by the private sector.  These techniques simply are not compatible with the Privacy Act, as direct marketing tactics increasingly call for massive amounts of personal information.  And while numerous laws protect individuals from commercial direct marketing techniques, these protections only apply in commercial transactions, leaving individuals with little recourse against harassing or unwanted junk mail, telemarketing, and spam from the government.

    This database is a bad idea.  The DOD should scrap its proposal to create this mega database of young Americans and rely upon traditional mass-media advertising to reach potential recruits.

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