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Grab your popcorn and settle into that comfy couch — it’s time to watch the Matrix again. Neo, Trinity and Morpheus are back to battle the burrowing machines, but this time the machines aren’t burrowing for the city of Zion, they’re burrowing for all sorts of information you thought was private. This Matrix isn’t a movie, it’s the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, and Connecticut recently signed on to participate without any opportunity for citizens to first comment or raise concerns. As The Connecticut Law Tribune reported a few weeks ago, the MATRIX is a joint effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to mine data in order to share terrorism-related information. MATRIX mines information from government sources, including criminal histories, driver’s licenses, and vehicle registrations, and also mines data from commercial companies like Accurint that gather everything from addresses, phone numbers and professional licenses to hunting and fishing licenses ( see www.Accurint.com). The MATRIX project is run by a private Florida corporation, Seisint Inc., whose founder resigned just prior to the launch of MATRIX after it was revealed that he had been involved in drug smuggling. The MATRIX program does not provide a way for members of the public to review their data files. So, unlike other data collection reports such as credit histories, there is no way for an individual to know what data has been collected by the MATRIX, whether it is correct, and how incorrect information can be changed. The MATRIX response is that individuals can communicate directly with agencies or entities that collect information and make sure that reports are correct at that level. Since the MATRIX never discloses all the agencies and entities it goes to for data, one wonders how individuals would ever be able to discern with whom they should directly communicate, not to mention the incredible and onerous burden it places on the individual. As noted above, the stated purpose of the MATRIX program is to help law enforcement agencies share terrorism-related information as well as other criminal information. However, there are no guidelines in place to define what counts as “terrorism-related information” or “other criminal information.” Further, the MATRIX gathers information on everyone, not just those people for whom there is some reasonable suspicion of terrorist or criminal activities. Given the broad scope of the MATRIX program, one would hope that the people affected by it would be given a chance to learn important details about the project, raise their concerns, and ask their state representatives to consider passing appropriate legislation to safeguard them. That has not happened. There have been no public hearings about the program. The Department of Public Safety, the state agency which committed Connecticut to the program, did not take any steps to apprise the state legislature of its plans to join the program. Further, when the Department of Public Safety received a state Freedom of Information Act request from the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union about the MATRIX, it essentially stonewalled in its response, claiming, among other things, that federal copyright laws prohibited disclosure of some materials. Advocates are now moving forward at the state legislature with a bill that would require public hearings about the MATRIX program. This is the best method at this point to provide needed review of the MATRIX program, and to craft necessary limiting or clarifying provisions. Connecticut’s citizens should contact their state representatives and encourage them to sponsor and support the bill, and express their concerns about privacy, accuracy, and purpose of the MATRIX program. Commentaries appearing as Advice Of Counsel are produced by the Advisory Board of The Connecticut Law Tribune . The opinions are voted on and passed by at least one third of the members of the board. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of every member of the board, nor of the newspaper.

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