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Walker Halts Utah's Participation in Matrix Program

Walker Halts Utah's Participation in Matrix Program

Posted - Jan. 29, 2004 at 3:14 p.m.



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Sandra Yi ReportingSen. Ron Allen: "The concept of combing large numbers of databases of law-abiding citizens certainly has a chilling notion."

Questions are swirling about a controversial dossier program. Did Utah 'enter the Matrix'? MATRIX stands for the Multi-state Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. Utah and seven other states signed up to share information on one database, but Governor Olene Walker put a stop to that today.

State leaders didn't even know about it until last night.

Gov. Olene Walker: "Somebody asked me if I knew the term 'matrix', and I said, 'You bet, it was a fast action move'."

The database includes information like criminal history and social security and DMV records. But critics wonder if it won't stop there.

Sen. Ron Allen, (D) Minority Whip: "The implications are so broad, the privacy issues, so extensive, I think a number of us would like to have known what was going on."

The program quietly started under former Governor, Mike Leavitt. Department of Public Safety officials supported the program, which was launched in support of national homeland security efforts.

Utah had agreed to share the following information: Criminal history records, motor vehicle and title registration information, driver license records, and Department of Corrections offender records.

Robert Flowers, Commissioner, Utah Dept. of Public Safety: "In retrospect, we could have probably have involved more folks in that, but it was such a new program to us, and the reason why I'm comfortable with it is it's already access to information we can get, there's nothing new here."

But Governor Walker today put a stop to Utah's participation because of privacy concerns. That's a major issue for critics. The ACLU is trying to find out just how much the state is involved and if a person's private information, such as shopping habits, will be included in the database. It calls the MATRIX a government surveillance system of sorts where anyone may be profiled.

Margaret Plane, ACLU: "Essentially what the system does is allow a computer to make decisions about whether or not an individual is a threat. And we're talking about individuals not under previous investigation."

The Governor will appoint an oversight committee that will ensure privacy concerns. If Utah decides to participate, it will take legislature's approval, since implementation would cost the state 2 to 3 million dollars.

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