Privacy SOS

Some data mining programs were shut down after millions of dollars had been poured into their development. An early casualty was MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange), a Florida-based program that made combined government and private sector data available to law enforcement agencies and had received at least $12 million in federal funding. Seisint Inc. won the contract for MATRIX after giving the federal agents and Florida officials the names of 120,000 people who showed a “statistical likelihood” of being terrorists. Many were investigated and arrested before the program was terminated in 2005. Seisint’s founder, millionaire Hank Asher, resigned from its board after it was alleged he was involved in drug smuggling.

In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security pulled the plug on its $42.5 million ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement). ADVISE was one of at least 12 data mining projects under the DHS that linked pieces of information from a variety of sources. It was reportedly capable of analyzing one billion pieces per hour of data from databases and one million pieces per hour of information from a variety of other sources such as intelligence reports, news articles and emails and putting it in a visual form for intelligence analysts. It was dropped after a report by the DHS Inspector General outlined serious privacy concerns, including the fact that live data about actual people was being used instead of dummy data to develop the program.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.