Pentagon Student Database Another Example of the Government's Out-of-Control Information Grab, ACLU Says

June 23, 2005 12:00 am

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Statement of Barry Steinhardt
Director, ACLU Technology and Liberty Project

NEW YORK — The recent revelation that the Pentagon is working with a private company to create information dossiers on millions of American college and high school students as young as 16 for the purpose of military recruiting is yet another example of the government’s rampant and unregulated collection and use of our personal information.

We understand the Pentagon’s need to increase its recruitment efforts, but the government should not be “keeping book” on private individuals who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. This is a principle that Congress sought to protect with the passage of the Privacy Act of 1974. Yet, by tapping into private-sector database companies, the Pentagon is effectively doing just that. These database companies compile ever-more-detailed files on each of us — files that the Pentagon is now using.

The Government should not be able to evade the law and core American values by outsourcing the work to the private sector. This effort — problematic in any circumstances — is especially disturbing when it’s targeted at kids as young as 16.

Worse still, the Pentagon in its Federal Register notice on this “system of records” has reserved for itself the right to share these student dossiers for numerous purposes that have nothing to do with military recruitment, including law enforcement. The net result is that sensitive information about the lives of millions of innocent students (including the keys to identity theft like social security numbers) may now end up in the files of not just the Pentagon but a host of public and private parties.

If the military is having trouble finding recruits, it must address the core sources of that problem; the solution is not to target our youth with marketing techniques centered around the collection of ever-more detailed dossiers of personal information.

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