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Matrix Crime and Terrorism Database Shutting Down

April 22, 2005  | 

A database that collected and shared people’s personal information to further law enforcement investigations has shut down after running out of federal funding.

The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, called Matrix, has shut down in its current form that was being used by Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and Connecticut. But individual states may continue to use the system if they find funds to keep it running. Other states dropped out of the program in the wake of controversy over privacy concerns. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union argued against collecting personal facts about innocent people to include in the large database meant to focus on criminal and terrorism suspects.

Law enforcement officials say Matrix simply combined data from various sources agencies already had access to into a single searchable database of 4 billion records. The system combined state records with other data collected by Seisint, Inc., the private company that founded the project and is now owned by Lexis-Nexis. Matrix allowed investigators to query the database and get speedy results, even when entering as little information as a partial license plate.

With no monies officially earmarked to fund use of Matrix, it is unclear whether states will be able to continue using the database.

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