ACLU Applauds Michigan's Withdrawal From MATRIX Program

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
March 8, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU of Michigan
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Statement of Chris Calabrese
ACLU Technology and Liberty Program

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union applauds the decision by the Michigan State Police to drop out of the MATRIX interstate public-private information -sharing program. The decision not only appears to reflect a recognition that Michigan’s participation in the program is forbidden under state law, but is in fact in the best interests of the residents of Michigan. We hope that the other four states that continue to participate in this project – Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Connecticut – will follow suit.

The larger issue behind Matrix, however, remains unresolved: the mass collection and conglomeration of information on the personal lives of individuals, the proliferation of private-sector sources of information on individuals, and the use of these new data sources by the police and other government agencies. Some of the consequences of this data revolution came into view just last week when it was uncovered that the data firm Choicepoint had sold dossiers on thousands of Americans to identity thieves.

There is too long of a history in this country of police agencies compiling and abusing dossiers on innocent individuals, and using that information for political purposes, to allow those agencies grab access to vast new personal databases without the kinds of legal checks and balances that such access would warrant. We all want our police agencies to be more effective at stopping crime, which is exactly why Americans must step up and confront the privacy issues inherent in the new revolution of personal information.

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