Friend sent this to me today. If you follow the link you get to view a little Flash clip that mocks a pizza delivery call. During the call you see what, apparently, the delivery company call person sees on her screen. Which includes just about everything having to do with the caller's life you can imagine. The phone they are calling from, where they work, their health history, what they have spent on their last vacation and the status of their visa card.
If you follow the link at the end of the flash clip, you are taken to the ACLU site and a page warning you to take action now or suffer this fate in the future because of some project called MATRIX (not like the movie). The MATRIX program is data on individuals, compiled in a database, for use in law enforcement. Currently the project compiles, according to the government, your name, address, family members, property ownership, bankruptcies, liens and judgments, voter registration and criminal history.
Now the ACLU likes to freak out about a lot of stuff, and I'm not sure this isn't one of them. The example in the flash clip has us believing that eventually anyone, or any business, will have instant access to all sorts of information because of this collection of stuff. But the fact is that all this stuff on the MATRIX list is all public information, possibly except for the criminal history. But the real question is how is this stuff getting used in the future. If it's solely for criminal justice use, then we don't have too much of a problem here. I think that the police should have every tool they need to get their job done.
However, I do think that the government should be explicit about what is being collected and how it's going to be used. There should be definite guidelines and boundaries in order to protect rights. But the ACLU is notorious for placing that borderline in extremely hard to defend locations, so I don't exactly trust them to define this one. Make your own decision.
Update: Welcome readers of The Gentile Cricket. He's got some words and a link to another guy. I think that we are all having the same tentative optimism about the project, but know that most tools that law enforcement uses have the potential for abuse.