FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Second Major Snoop Program Shut Down By Privacy Opposition
NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the termination of the "MATRIX," a controversial interstate information sharing program that combined government and private-sector data and made the results available to law enforcement officials across the nation.
"Another major assault on privacy has been turned back, thanks to the thousands of Americans around the country who helped us to fight this program," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "In state capitols across the nation, in police headquarters, and in media newsrooms, the message was heard loud and clear: the Matrix program is not consistent with the American tradition that innocent citizens be 'left alone' by their government."
In a press release issued Friday afternoon, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which spearheaded the program, announced the program's shutdown. In 2003, a top Florida police official told the Washington Post that the program was so powerful that it was "scary" and that "it could be abused. I mean, I can call up everything about you, your pictures and pictures of your neighbors."
"We at the ACLU feel proud to have led the effort against this program," said Steinhardt. "This may be the biggest victory for privacy since we and our allies from across the political spectrum shut down Total Information Awareness," he added, referring to a Pentagon program run by Admiral John Poindexter that, like the Matrix, would have combined information from disparate sources and then combed through it using computer algorithms to search for allegedly suspicious behavior. Congress, alarmed about TIA's Orwellian nature, shut it down in 2003.
"We're under no illusions that the long and hard fight against the growing surveillance society has been won," said Steinhardt. "Even here, part of the Matrix program will apparently continue to be available to individual states. But it is worth pausing to celebrate an important victory in that battle. These are major programs that have been shut down, and their termination should give heart to everyone who supports the fight to make use of technology without giving up the privacy we've always enjoyed here in America."
For more information on the program, go to www.aclu.org/matrix.