Utah Pulls Out of Controversial MATRIX Database

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Utah is withdrawing from MATRIX, a controversial crime and antiterrorism database that the state helped launch and former Gov. Mike Leavitt promoted, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

An investigatory panel recommended on Thursday that Utah steer clear of the database unless the Legislature can be assured there is “adequate” oversight to guard against the misuse of billions of government and commercial records the database collects on citizens.

Utah’s withdrawal is not good news for the MATRIX. The state was a driving force behind the project and is now the eighth partner to drop out, leaving just Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

But Florida Law Enforcement officials who manage the network say it’s far from dead.

“The more states that participate, the better the data we have, so when any state pulls out, there’s an impact,” said Mark Zadra, the special agent in charge of the program. “But it’s still a very valuable project without Utah.”

Utah MATRIX committee member Elizabeth Dunning, a Salt Lake City attorney, called the data-mining software that Boca Raton, Fla., company Seisint Inc. developed for the MATRIX “profiling on steroids.”

Seisint broached the MATRIX project with Florida’s public safety department shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, boasting that it had the power to predict a person’s tendency to commit a crime.

During a demonstration of the software, company officials generated a list of 120,000 people with a “high terrorist factors score” by searching public and private records for variables, such as ethnicity, age, gender and “proximity to a dirty address,” or the site of previous criminal activity.

The list contained five of the 20 Sept. 11 hijackers, said Dunning. “But that leaves 119,995 names of potentially innocent citizens who are now on some list of suspects.”

Link: http://www.sltrib.com/2004/Mar/03262004/utah/utah.asp

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