Hmmm... Homeschooling, anyone?
Pentagon Creating Database of High School Students
Privacy Advocates Say Recruitment Effort Goes Too Far
(Jun. 23) - As U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, the Pentagon -- which has fallen short of its recruitment goals -- is using new means to find potential recruits.
Working with the private marketing firm BeNow, Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., the Pentagon has created a huge database of millions of high school students, aged 16 to 18.
The database includes names, dates of birth, genders, addresses, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, ethnicity, telephone numbers, and even grade point averages.
The purpose, according to a Defense Department statement, is "to assist" in "direct marketing recruiting efforts."
Privacy Advocates Concerned
But privacy advocates say it violates a federal law that restricts the government's ability to gather personal information. They say they understand the military's need to recruit but this type of information-gathering goes too far.
"It's very secretive," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It feels a lot like a big brother proposal, and it really should be stopped."
The Pentagon -- struggling to recruit in the face of the daily violence in Iraq -- says the database is a way to remain competitive in a marketplace where young people have a lot of choices.
Officials say they will handle the data with care.
"We always worry about privacy issues," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said.
A growing number of parents were already upset about the military's recruiting techniques. A little-known provision in the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" education law requires every public school to provide the military with the names, addresses and phone numbers of students.
Last month, Louise Wannier went to her daughter's high school to submit an opt-out letter, which prohibits recruiters from accessing personal information.
She learned today about the new database, which may have much more information on her daughter than she'd ever imagined.
"I thought I had protected my kid," she said. "This is a direct violation of family privacy and parental rights."
Privacy advocates and at least one congressman are now fighting to stop the gathering of information for the database.
ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."