RealNews

Concerns about citizen privacy grow as states create 'Matrix' database

While privacy worries are frustrating the Pentagon’s plans for a far-reaching database to combat terrorism, a similar project is quietly taking shape with the participation of more than a dozen states — and $12 million in federal funds. The database project, created so states and local authorities can track would-be terrorists as well as criminal fugitives, is being built and housed in the offices of a private company but will be open to some federal law enforcers and perhaps even US intelligence agencies. Dubbed Matrix, the database has been in use for a year and a half in Florida, where police praise the crime-fighting tool as nimble and exhaustive. It cross-references the state’s driving records and restricted police files with billions of pieces of public and private data, including credit and property records. But privacy advocates, officials in two states, and a competing data vendor have branded Matrix as playing fast and loose with Americans’ private details. They say that Matrix houses restricted police and government files on colossal databases that sit in the offices of Seisint Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla., company founded by a millionaire who police say flew planeloads of drugs into the country in the early 1980s. “It’s federally funded, it’s guarded by state police but it’s on private property? That’s very interesting,” said Christopher Slobogin, a University of Florida law professor and expert in privacy issues. Matrix was initially intended to track terrorists, as was the Pentagon’s Terrorism Information Awareness project, which sparked a congressional uproar and got watered down. Full Story

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