The U.S. Defense Department is violating the privacy of millions of high school students nationwide with a detailed database it uses for military recruitment, a federal lawsuit alleged Monday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on on behalf of six high school students, saying the department is disregarding privacy boundaries set by Congress for the collection, maintenance and distribution of students' personal information.
Military officials have said they have about 30 million names in the database. The Pentagon said last year the list includes high school students age 16 to 18 and college students, and includes such information as the students' Social Security numbers, gender and race.
Hope Reichbach, a 17-year-old in Manhattan and a plaintiff, said she contacted the NYCLU after she had tried unsuccessfully to get her name removed from lists and databases that she said subjected her to repeated phone calls from military recruiters.
"I got involved in this lawsuit because I want them to leave me and other students alone," Reichbach said.
1982 law may be violated
The department is flouting a 1982 military recruitment law that specifies that it refrain from collecting information on students under 17, that it store the information for no more than three years and that the information be kept private, the lawsuit said.
The current database includes information on 16-ear-olds, is storing the information for five years and is being shared with law enforcement and other agencies, the lawsuit said.
Megan Gaffney, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.
The plaintiffs are six 16- and 17-year-old students who do not know if they are included in the database, but who object to it, lawyers said.
"Our clients don't wish to join the military," said Corey Stoughton, NYCLU attorney, "and they don't want their genders, ethnicities and social security numbers collected and distributed."