Hearing on Lawsuit Filed Against Michigan State Police

February 03, 2005

DETROIT – A hearing will be held this week to determine if an American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lawsuit against the Michigan State Police (MSP) will move forward. The suit was filed on behalf of the organization and three individuals, including former Michigan Governor William Milliken and a Catholic nun, asking the court to stop the Michigan State Police from participating in the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) until they are willing to comply with state law.

"The core issue in this lawsuit is the Michigan State Police’s unwillingness to follow the Interstate Law Enforcement Intelligence Organizations Act (ILEIOA) signed by Governor Milliken that simply requires that they first seek the approval of the legislature before participating in this type of program and that a citizen oversight body be employed to ensure there is no abuse of this data," said ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss.

ILEIOA established safeguards on police sharing of information to correct the abuses of the MSP in the 1960’s and 1970’s after it was discovered that hundreds of law-abiding citizens who were active in civil rights and peace movement were spied upon. In the technological world of the twenty-first century, these same “dossiers” that the ILEIOA was concerned about are now created and maintained in mammoth data mining programs such as MATRIX.

MATRIX is an intelligence gathering tool used to build detailed dossiers on individual people, select people for further investigation on the basis of a variety of queries, and uncover previously unknown linkages between people. Data mining systems, including MATRIX, collect disparate information from different sources – both police and commercial.

According to the Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (TAPAC) of the Department of Defense, “data mining” is defined to mean: “searches of one or more electronic databases of information concerning U.S. persons, by or on behalf of an agency or employee of the government.”

Since 2003 the Michigan State Police has provided criminal record data, arrests records, sexual offenders list records, driver’s license records, and motor vehicle registration records to MATRIX which is operated by a private company, Seisint Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida.

According to The Washington Post (7/15/05), “Seisint's Accurint service, drawing on billions of records, can deliver dossiers online in an instant, including addresses, jobs, assets, voter registration and associates.” The government claims that MATRIX does not include a wide swath of personal information, such as credit card purchases, magazine subscription lists, etc.

“Without public oversight, however, the MSP’s claim is impossible to verify,” added Moss. “Since this information is available in the SEISINT databases, it wouldn’t take much to cross-reference personal and public data. Because of the enormous power and inherent danger in this type of system, it is vital that MATRIX operates in an open and accountable manner; that citizens and legislators have oversight over its functions and the ability to assure its information is accurate.”

In a written affidavit submitted with the ACLU brief, Bruce Schneier, a security technologist and an expert in computer security who has frequently testified before Congress, said, “MATRIX allows users to engage in ‘fishing expeditions’ by analyzing data of many people, looking for individuals that may fit a certain profile or simply not behave in a ‘normal’ manner.”

Of serious concern is the long list of privacy risks of government data mining projects that apply to MATRIX, including data aggregation risks, data inaccuracy risks, false positives, mission creep, and data processing risks identified in the TAPAC report and by the Association of Computing Machinery, a professional society of computer programmers established in 1947 with 78,000 members.

According to the ACLU, MATRIX contains a vast array of non-criminal information on the citizens of Michigan including information that is speculative, inaccurate and possibly constitutionally protected. There are no mechanisms within the system to rectify errors, such as individuals with the same name that may be conflated; or identities that may be falsified. Seisint, by the term of the contract, is not accountable to the state or federal governments.

The hearing will be held in Judge Warfield Moore’s courtroom in the Wayne County Circuit Court at 8:30 a.m., Friday, February 4.

To read the reply brief, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/briefs/MATRIXreplybrief.pdf

To read the affidavits, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/briefs/MATRIXaffidavits.pdf

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