Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (Matrix): Too Much Information?

Called the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, or Matrix, the program is a state-level initiative. It aims to merge criminal and other public records from participating states with commercial databases.

By
Mon, March 01, 2004

CSO — Privacy advocates are angry. Again. A new data mining program has them crying Total Information Awareness.

Called the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, or Matrix, the program is a state-level initiative. It aims to merge criminal and other public records from participating states with commercial databases. The idea was conceived by database products company Seisint, and developed with input from Florida law enforcement, the FBI, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Secret Service. It's a way to aggregate data from various databases to fight terrorism.

A number of statesincluding Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York and Utahhave enrolled in the free and voluntary Matrix program. But just like TIA before it, Civil Libertarians are sounding alarms about Matrix. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls Matrix a data surveillance program every bit as dangerous and Orwellian as TIA.

In October 2003, the group filed Freedom of Information Act requests in each of the five participating states to find out what data is in the system and who has access to it.

The ACLU is worried that too much information is being collected by Matrix, including credit history and the names and addresses of individuals' family members and associates, and that the system could be made available to federal law enforcement agencies in the future. The group is also concerned that Matrix could expand to track citizens' purchasing habits and demographic information.

Bill Shrewsbury, a vice president at Seisint, which hosts the system and supplies the search technology, denies those allegations. It is not storing credit history data, he says. Instead, officers who are pursuing a crime and have the name of an individual or some other data such as license number, can use it to perform searches, which are recorded and audited. Matrix can be accessed only by law enforcement personnel over a dedicated and secure network from special terminals in the states that participate in the program.

Our Commenting Policies