So, the Pentagon has started working with a “marketing” firm to collect
private data on the country’s 16 to 18 year olds in order to build
profiles of candidates for aggressive recruitment. 

Aggressive recruitment!” you say.  “Such biased language!” 

Yeah.  And?  Check this:  under the No Child Left Behind
Act, military recruiters can get access to – in fact, have prepared for
them – tons of data on kids in high school.  And they have gotten
aggressive in their recruitment to the point of calling kids at home,
sometimes repeatedly, angering kids and parents.  If you don’t
think the military adopting the tactics of telemarketers is aggressive,
you are a moron.

From the Washington Post story (via MSNBC):

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department began working yesterday with a
private marketing firm to create a database of high school students
ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify
potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy
advocates. The new database will include personal information including
birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point
averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

The
data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many
marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to
target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.

“The
purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility
within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute
files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for
military service,” according to the official notice of the program.

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be
an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government’s right to
collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do
the work.

Some information on high school
students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program
under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have
been using the information to contact students at home, angering some
parents and school districts around the country.

School
systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal
funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information
that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John
Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in
Bethesda, said the issue has “generated a great deal of angst” among
many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.

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.

“Using
multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of
eligible candidates to join the military,” according to written
statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in
response to questions. “This program is important because it helps
bolster the effectiveness of all the services’ recruiting and retention
efforts.”

Translation:  we’re having trouble duping
enough people into getting all blowed up in some blasted, sandy
wasteland to further fuel our hubris, and thus we need to start really going after them.

To be fair, the article does say that parents
can choose to withhold information sent to recruiters already, but what
about the new program?  Can they ask the DMV not to send
their kids’ driving records to the military?  The credit
bureaus?  Their frequent shopper programs at GameStop, or
whatever?  And
how many schools go out of their way to piss off their campus recruiter
by sending home frequent notes regarding the parents’ rights to
withhold information?

The truth is, I see an argument for including the military as an option
for future careers when preparing students for their lives as
adults.  That’s why we have career fairs at schools, after all,
right?  And vocational training classes?  But…

The difference here is that your shop teacher never called you
at home and said, “Hey, you want to run a metal shop, right?  What
do I have to do to get you in some overalls today?  What bonus do
I have to offer you?  What lies do we need to tell to get you on the business end of a band saw for the next two years (at least – heck, we might just keep you there if we feel like it)
with as little discussion as possible of the maiming and mutilation
rates among returning woodworkers?”  It’s just not the same.

Should the military have access to high school students?  I say
yes – the same access anyone else has.  If they want to recruit,
great – they can come to campus and present their sales pitch just like
anybody else.  What that doesn’t include is the kind of
personal information the federal government is requiring schools to
give them, and calling them at home, and encouraging them to make up
fake credentials and break every rule in the book just to get a warm
body on the sand.  Hell, I come from a military family – my father
was in the Navy, as was an uncle, as were several of my grandparents’
siblings during WWII, and my oldest nephew wants to be an Army
Ranger.  But the deal here is that my nephew has made that choice.  Once schools are required to hand over the store and the Pentagon can get around the letter of a law limiting its profiling abilities in order to build a huge and highly invasive database that encompasses every 16 to 18 year old in the country, including your kids, your siblings and your friends, it stops being such a matter of choice.

After all, if my oldest nephew enlists, what are the odds his younger, philosophical brother won’t come up on their radar as a good potential recruit? (more…)