FORMER DRUG SMUGGLERS RUN ANTI-CRIME DATABASE

Defense Tech has highlighted dozens of fear-inducing government efforts to find bad guys in the data-trails of ordinary citizens. But, if this Associated Press report is accurate, it's enough to make the iron-willed hide under the bed and suck their thumbs.The existence of the Matrix (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) database has been known for a while, now. It's an effort by a few state governments, including Florida, to set up a kind of local Total Information Awareness looking for crooks, as well as bomb-throwers.But new details about the program are coming to light. And they are not pretty.

The project is billed as a tool for state and local police, but organizers are considering giving access to the Central Intelligence Agency, said Phil Ramer, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcements intelligence office...Matrix houses restricted police and government files on colossal databases that sit in the offices of Seisint Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla., company founded by a millionaire whom police say flew planeloads of drugs into the country in the early 1980sCriminal history files in the database are maintained by 15 Seisint employees, watched over by Florida state police, Ramer said.Yet a Florida Department of Law Enforcement memo obtained by The Associated Press shows potential lapses in oversight. The memo says background checks on Seisints Matrix workers took place only last month, more than a year into the program, and a privacy policy governing the databases use has yet to be finalizedCalifornia and Texas (have) dropped out (of the Matrix program), citing, among other things, worries over housing sensitive files at Seisint. And a competing data vendor, ChoicePoint, decided not to bid on the project, saying it lacked adequate privacy safeguards."
The Register notes that "Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, and Utah have signed on to the scheme. Residents of other states are safe, for now."(emphasis mine)
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