ACLU Calls on Pennsylvania to Follow Michigan's Lead and Withdraw From "Matrix" Snoop Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement of Larry Frankel, Legislative Director ACLU of Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA – Yesterday, state police officials in Michigan announced that they were withdrawing from the controversial Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, more commonly known as MATRIX. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania calls on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to follow Michigan’s lead by ending its involvement in this government supervised invasion of people’s privacy.
Over the last year and a half, states as diverse as Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin have also dropped out of, or suspended their participation in, MATRIX. It is high time for Pennsylvania to do so as well.
MATRIX is a federally funded program that pulls together public and commercial databases. Billions of records on millions of Americans are being stored and shared with states that may not adequately protect confidential information. Through MATRIX, governmental agents can instantaneously access motor vehicle and driver records, criminal history records, bankruptcy filings, professional licenses, property ownership and address history.
The Pennsylvania State Police, without legislative approval or oversight, started participating in MATRIX in 2002. Apparently, the state police had high hopes that many other states would sacrifice their citizens’ privacy and join MATRIX. Now that only Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut and Florida remain in MATRIX, it is clear that this federally sponsored data aggregation project has diminished value.
The recent extensive security breach at Choice Point shows why privacy advocates have good reason to be wary of data collectors like MATRIX. Data aggregators are just too tempting a target for those who understand how all that data can be used to facilitate identity theft. Pennsylvanians should not be exposed to the risk that some technically sophisticated criminals will successfully figure out how to access and misuse the data stored in MATRIX.
One year ago, the ACLU of Pennsylvania called for legislative oversight of MATRIX. We no longer think that oversight is good enough. Today, we call on Pennsylvania to announce that it is dropping out of the MATRIX. Pennsylvania should follow the lead of our sister states who have stepped up to really protect their citizens’ privacy. If Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin can get out of the MATRIX, why shouldn’t Pennsylvania also end this dangerous relationship?
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