'Investigative Data Warehouse' Includes Hundreds of Millions of Entries

Washington, D.C. - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, asking for records concerning the FBI's "Investigative Data Warehouse" (IDW) -- a huge database that contains hundreds of millions of entries of personal information.

According to the FBI, the IDW was developed to collect a wide swath of personal information -- like "photographs, biographical information, physical location information, and financial data" -- for use in anti-terrorism investigations. The FBI said earlier this year that there were over 560 million items in the IDW, and that nearly 12,000 law enforcement agents had access to the information. EFF filed its suit after the FBI failed to respond to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records disclosing the criteria for inclusion in the database and the current privacy policy protecting this sensitive information, among other critical issues.

The FBI has failed to file a public notice describing the database and the criteria for including personal information, as required by the Privacy Act of 1974.

"Americans deserve to know what information is collected under what circumstances, and who has access to it," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel, the director of the FLAG Project. "And what if this database contains false information about you? How would you correct that? These are serious questions that the FBI needs to answer."

EFF's FLAG Project, launched last month, uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. A lawsuit filed earlier this month demanded that the FBI release records concerning DCS-3000 and Red Hook -- tools the FBI has spent millions of dollars developing for electronic surveillance of personal communications.

"The public needs as much information as possible to evaluate tools that put our privacy at risk," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The Department of Justice must abide by the law and publicly release information about these surveillance programs."

For the FOIA complaint filed against the Department of Justice:

For more on the FLAG Project:


David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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