Georgia plans contribute confidential driver’s license and auto tag information from millions of state residents to a crime-fighting database even as five states have opted out because of concerns about cost and personal privacy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says. Apparently, the state would join the system only if federal funds pay for it.
The newspaper reports that the database includes an “astounding” array of data, including past addresses and telephone numbers; neighbors’ addresses and telephone numbers; makes, models and colors of registered cars; business associates; speeding tickets; arrests; marriages and divorces; names and addresses of family members; driver’s license photos; Social Security numbers and birth dates; and credit information.
“One-stop shopping is what it is,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan, who is coordinating Georgia’s participation in the Matrix project. “It’s extremely valuable in tracking a fugitive.” Everything in Matrix is available to state and local law enforcement from various sources, but Matrix puts it in one place.
The prospect of such a master file alarms privacy advocates. “This is a battle for what kind of society we want to live in,” said former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, an ex-prosecutor and now a consultant to the American Civil Liberties Union. “Do we want to live in [George Orwell’s] 1984, or do we want to live in the kind of society that America has always been?”
Seisint, the company that created Matrix, not only would manage this wealth of confidential data but also would keep track of who has access to it.
It could cost as much as $600,000 to retrieve the data and transmit them to the Matrix database. The state has been told that federal homeland security funds may be available. “Frankly, if there is a cost, we will choose not to participate,” said a Georgia official.