New York and Wisconsin have pulled out of the anticrime database program called Matrix that civil libertarians say endangers citizens’ privacy rights, the Associated Press reports. Five states remain out of about a dozen that had signed up to share criminal, prison, and vehicle information with one another and cross-reference the data with privately held databases.
Concern about federal funding and the waning potential for benefit to law enforcement prompted New York’s withdrawal, said Lynn Rasic of the New York State Office of Public Security. The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation cited cost, privacy and potential abuses of such a large database.
Officially the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, Matrix links government records with up to 20 billion records in databases held by Seisint Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that whether they know it or not, at least 33 states have released government and commercial records on residents to Matrix. Utah was a driving force behind the project, says the newspaper based on documents obtained under the state Government Records Access Management Act.
Some critics hve asked Gov. Olene Walker to demand the return of Utah’s information, which is known to include law enforcement files such as prison data, driver licenses and criminal histories but could extend to credit records, phone numbers, and home addresses of law-abiding residents. “We don’t want our information floating out there when we don’t know what’s on the database or who has access to it,” said Sen. Ron Allen.
Walker is waiting for recommendations from an oversight committee before taking further action. She suspended Utah’s participation in Matrix on Jan. 29, saying neither she nor legislative leaders had been briefed on the program authorized by former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who has refused to comment.
Matrix matches law enforcement files with private databases containing billions of public and commercial records from a wide variety of sources. “When you start collecting information on people who have done nothing wrong, it’s the first step toward treating every American like they could be a criminal,” said Chris Calbrese of the American Civil Liberties Union.