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Do you know where your data is?

The WP has a story this morning where the Defense Department has hired Be-Now Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., a database marketing company, to collect names of high-school and college students as part of an effort to improve its recruiting efforts. This comes as the Pentagon is having trouble recruiting.

Here is a synopsis from Slate.com's Today's Papers:
The Post's off-lead says the Pentagon, in a bid to improve recruiting, has contracted with a private firm to create a database of all students in the United States aged 16-18 [registration required]. The No Child Left Behind Act already allows the military to gather some school info, but this latest effort goes further and will include everything from Social Security numbers to what subjects students are studying (at least that's what the Post says). The info will be taken from commercial databases, state DMVs, and elsewhere. The LAT also fronts the story but credits the Post with breaking it.

And another privacy story about the Homeland Security Department's Secure Flight program. DHS's Transportation Security Agency yesterday posted an updated privacy notice about Secure Flight. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the pilot violated even the agency's previously published privacy notice.

These stories comes as we have just finished work on a feature package focusing on privacy, which will appear in your Monday issue of Federal Computer Week. The DOD story seems to illustrate what the overview piece reports -- agencies are increasingly turning to the private sector to collect data and avoid the Privacy Act.

The story has an interesting quote from the Homeland Security Department's chief privacy officer, Nuala O'Connor Kelly, who says that she thinks the traditional thinking that security and privacy are at odds is passe and that this country cannot give up privacy. I don't actually think that is true, but it is an interesting thought.

There are several parts to the privacy package. The second part looks at chief privacy officers and finds that the few that are in government do very different things. The third piece looks at privacy from an international perspective. And the lead story in the policy section looks at California's efforts to regulate RFID.

The most fascinating thing about privacy to me is that most people seem to be willing to give it up, especially when they are confronted with danger -- real or percieved. That seems to raise this conflict between security and privacy. And there are two significant questions: Are privacy and security at odds with one another? And if the public doesn't care, why should the government?

As always, we would love to hear your comments.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jun 23, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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