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US sniffs out recruits

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    Privacy row as US sniffs out recruits By Damien Cave June 25, 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2005
      Privacy row as US sniffs out recruits
      By Damien Cave
      June 25, 2005

      Confronted with a fall in recruiting, the US military
      has created a database of 30 million Americans as
      young as 16, full of personal data such as school
      grades and social security numbers.

      Enlisting the help of a marketing firm, the Pentagon
      began building the database three years ago, but
      military officials filed a notice announcing plans for
      it only last month. That is apparently a violation of
      the federal Privacy Act, which requires that
      government agencies accept public comment before new
      records systems are created.

      A coalition of eight privacy groups has filed a brief
      opposing the database's creation.

      David Chu, the undersecretary of defence for personnel
      and readiness, acknowledged on Thursday that the
      database had been in the works since 2002. It was just
      a tool to send general material from the Pentagon to
      those most likely to enlist, he said.

      "If we don't want conscription, you have to give the
      Department of Defence, the military services, an
      avenue to contact young people to tell them what is
      being offered. It would be naive to believe that in
      any enterprise, that you are going to do well just by
      waiting for people to call you."

      The issue of the database has emerged as the army and,
      to a lesser extent, the marines, struggle to meet
      recruitment goals to replenish the ranks of the
      all-volunteer services.

      Pentagon officials are increasingly worried that the
      national recruiting downturn is not a short-term slump
      but a long-term crisis threatening the viability of
      the military.

      The website for the Pentagon's Joint Advertising
      Market Research Studies division, which manages
      recruiting research and marketing for all four
      branches of the military, describes the database as
      "arguably the largest repository of 16-to-25-year-old
      youth data in the country". It is managed by a private
      marketing company that uses personal data to target

      The database includes names of more than 3.1 million
      high school graduates, a list bought by the Pentagon,
      as well as names of 4.7 million college students,
      Pentagon records show.

      Recruiters have compiled and used similar data for
      decades, former military officials say. But this
      database is the most extensive centralised collection
      of such records. And information is continually being
      merged for targeted marketing.

      "Halfway through 2004," says a briefing on the program
      in February that appears on a Pentagon website, "we
      started overlaying ethnicity codes and telephone

      Mr Chu said the data, particularly social security
      numbers, was closely guarded and had not been shared
      with other government agencies.

      As enlistment has dwindled in several services, many
      parents say military recruiters have become more
      aggressive, often calling their homes repeatedly.

      Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, public high
      school districts are obliged to provide student
      contact information to military recruiters or risk
      losing federal funds.

      The New York Times, Los Angeles Times

      - The Pentagon's database compiles detailed
      information about high school students aged 16 to 18,
      all college students, and individuals registered with
      the Selective Service System.

      - At any one time there are about 12 million names on

      - Information contained could include social security
      numbers, average marks, ethnicity, email addresses and
      subjects students are studying.

      - The Pentagon says it is used chiefly for direct-mail
      campaigns and to help the military weed out people who
      would not be eligible.



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