Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.15.07

Opting Out
Score one for the people

It is not often these days that we have something to celebrate, but thanks to litigation by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) brought on behalf of six high school students, there is a significant improvement in student privacy rights.

As previously discussed in these pages, the Pentagon has a database on about 30 million youth, ages 16 through 25, or about 90 to 95 percent of all youth. To facilitate military recruiting is the stated purpose of this database. Data is gathered from a variety of sources, beginning with drivers’ license applications.

Data for all youth include: name, address, gender, race or ethnicity. In addition, for high school students the following data are included: birthdate, phone, high school name, graduation date, grade point average, education level, military interest, college intent, and military test scores such as the ASVAB (a military job placement test, if taken. For college students the following are collected: phone, college name, location and type, competitive rating, class year, field of study.

It is chilling that the military has a database on civilian youth, even youth as young as 16.

However, the NYCLU litigation has gained several very important protections. No longer are Social Security numbers routinely included (except in scrambled form for males registered with Selective Service), and three years after the last data is released about an individual, his or her data is eliminated (instead of no provision for the database ever to end). Even more significant is the elimination of the possibility of release of data to law enforcement or intelligence agencies. Now the database can only be used for military recruiting purposes.

For the first time you can get all data about you eliminated from the database, solely because of this successful and significant litigation. You can opt out of being in this database by submitting that request in writing (see details below) A parent must sign the request for a youth under age 18. If your address changes, you should submit another opt out request.

Why you should opt out:

• Any database can be compromised by hacking or error

• You may decrease the volume of unwanted military recruiter contacts

• A large number of opt-out requests will demonstrate that governmental violations of privacy are abhorrent to a large number of people. Please pass this information on to other youth and their families.

Significant as these changes are, they do nothing to stop aggressive military recruiting, especially that focused on low income and youth of color. The NYCLU tried but failed to get ethnicity and race eliminated as categories in the database.

To opt out of being included in this database, write to: Joint Advertising and Marketing Research & Studies, Direct Marketing Program Officer, Attention: Opt Out, 4040 North Fairfax Drive, Ste. 200, Arlington, VA 22203-1613. Suggested letter:

Dear Direct Marketing Program officer: Please remove all information and data regarding the following individual from the JAMRS military recruitment database (include full name, date of birth and full address). I believe that the JAMRS database is an intrusion into my family’s privacy and the Department of Defense should not be compiling this information.

Sign and date the letter.

Want more information? Check the NYCLU website ( call Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) at 485-1755.

Carol Van Houten is co-coordinator of the Committee for Countering Military Recruitment, a joint project of CALC and Eugene PeaceWorks.