When the federal government in April stopped funding a database that lets police quickly see public records and commercially collected information, privacy advocates celebrated, says the Associated Press. Still, some states are pressing forward with a similar system, continuing to look for ways to search quickly through data ranging from driver’s license photos to phone numbers to information about people’s cars. Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania still use software that lets investigators quickly cull through much of the data about people that reside in cyberspace. However, without federal aid for the data-sharing system known as Matrix, they won’t be routinely searching through digital files from other states.
Some law enforcement officers say the information is already out there anyway. “The media uses that data, attorneys use it, banks use it,” said Mark Zadra of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Matrix – shorthand for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange – was born as an anti-terrorism tool in the wake of Sept. 11 2001. Created by Florida law enforcement with a one-time drug-running pilot-turned-millionaire computer whiz named Hank Asher, it was conceived as a way for states to combine data they have on people – driving records and criminal histories, for example – with records from other states.