Utah leaves the MATRIX

Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange

Utah Governor Olene Walker last week officially halted the state's participation in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX), following a two-month statewide review of the pilot law enforcement network.

There are many efforts underway to share information across traditional law enforcement boundaries, many of which started before the national push for homeland security. Utah officials started providing information to MATRIX in July 2003.

In the end, the withdrawal from the federally funded pilot might not be permanent because an oversight committee, appointed by Walker and consisting of members of her administration, the state legislature and the public, also recommended that the state legislature should determine an adequate level of oversight of the program. But for now Utah's law enforcement agencies will not be participating, despite the potential benefits.

"I understand law enforcement officials need to share information regarding criminal activity, but there are privacy and funding concerns I had to consider," Walker said in a statement.

MATRIX is partially funded by both the Homeland Security Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness and the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Programs. States currently participating in the program include Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. Other states have pulled out over the past two years, including Alabama, California, Georgia and New York.

Walker put a hold on Utah's participation in the network in January because of privacy concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, primarily about the type of personal information included in the exchange. At that point, she appointed the oversight committee to evaluate all of the issues surrounding MATRIX and Utah's participation.

The ACLU of Utah earlier this month sent a letter to the committee outlining its concerns and submitted proposed legislation to put limits on the information exchange.

The organization's main concerns were that the MATRIX data sources include information collected and held by the private sector, and that the project performs data mining on all of the information in order to find patterns and links. Data mining has been a source of controversy between government and privacy advocates because of its ability to quickly and widely link data from multiple sources.

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