ACLU Seeks Answers from Ohio Attorney General About MATRIX Data-Mining Program

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
February 19, 2004 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said today that it wants answers from the state Attorney General about Ohio’s participation in the controversial “MATRIX” database surveillance system.

“”MATRIX is yet another attempt by the government to place the innocent public under surveillance,” said Carrie Davis, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Ohio. “We want to know what sort of personal data Ohio is turning over to the MATRIX database and what procedures, if any, are in place to ensure accuracy and privacy.””

The Multi-state Anti-terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) was created shortly after Congress killed the Pentagon’s “Total Information Awareness” data-mining program over privacy concerns. The program, operated by a private Florida company, combines state government records, such as driver’s license information, with commercially available data to create a vast database capable of compiling and analyzing a profile of every American.

The ACLU of Ohio a filed Freedom of Information Act request with the Ohio Attorney General’s office on October 30, 2003, and again on February 9, 2004, seeking answers about the state’s participation in MATRIX. The goal of the request was to find out what information sources MATRIX is drawing on, who has access to the database, and how it is being used. The ACLU of Ohio is still waiting for answers.

The ACLU national office and its affiliates have made similar requests to the federal government agencies and states participating in MATRIX. To date, the ACLU has received responses to its requests from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — all of which shed light on the realities of MATRIX data-mining.

Pennsylvania State Police documents obtained by the ACLU as part of a series of state Freedom of Information requests repeatedly discuss a “data-mining application, called FCIC Plus,” which is described as containing a “terrorism factor information query capability.”

A slide show obtained from the Michigan Department of State Police contains charts graphically describing how police information from multiple states will be combined with commercial databases containing “20+ Billion Records From 100’s of sources.”

The minutes of a November 2003 MATRIX executive board meeting, recently obtained by the ACLU of Florida, list Ohio as a participant and show the Ohio Attorney General’s office in attendance. When asked to provide a status report, the delegate from the Ohio Attorney General’s office reported, “The Ohio governor is taking his lead from the Ohio Attorney General. He has announced publicly that MATRIX is a part of his agenda, and he supports the process.” The ACLU of Ohio said it intends to find out exactly what this “process” entails.

For more information on the ACLU’s efforts to expose government data-mining, including information requests and responses, go to /matrix

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