Florida tries to revive Matrix

Florida is considering creating a successor to the controversial Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange law enforcement database that shut down April 15 after its federal funding expired.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a request for information, with responses due by May 16, soliciting contractors to offer proposals to establish a searchable law enforcement database including individual records, insurance records, financial records, property records and business records, according to a press release from the department.

The old database, known as Matrix, was created in 2002 as a $12 million anti-terrorism pilot project of the Justice Department and initially involved 13 states. But the number of participating states dwindled to four ? Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania ? because of widespread concerns that the program's capabilities were too invasive and infringed on privacy rights.

Matrix operated on proprietary software developed by Seisint Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., letting users search quickly on multiple public and commercial databases including criminal records, driver's license data, phone directories, pilot licenses, property records, sex offender lists, corporation filings, professional licenses and bankruptcy filings.

The software allowed access to photos as well. For example, a user could query Matrix to identify all drivers licenses at a specific address and to display all license photos from that address.

Between July 2003 and April 2005, there were more than 1.8 million queries to the Matrix database from 963 law enforcement officials, according to a Matrix news release. The service assisted in many types of investigations, including fraud, 23 percent; robbery, 19 percent; sex crimes, 9 percent; extortion, 7 percent and national security, 3 percent, the news release stated.

"This powerful investigative tool has become an invaluable source for many law enforcement personnel," the release said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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