Privacy Questioned with Network of Information 'Fusion Centers'

Privacy Questioned with Network of Information 'Fusion Centers'

Is Big Brother watching? If you live in Tennessee, all kinds of personal information is being collected in Nashville at a place called the Fusion Center. ABC 24's Senior Investigator Jeni Diprizio gives us a peek inside.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Is Big Brother watching? If you live in Tennessee, all kinds of personal information is being collected in Nashville at a place called the Fusion Center.

The Tennessee Fusion Center is one of 72 across the nation. Civil rights supporters say you should worry about the information collected and what's being done with it.

From police cars that read your license plates and know the details of your life, to live images from cameras placed around the city fed into the Memphis Real Time Crime Center - what you do, where you go and what you purchased can be tracked.

Bruce Kramer with the American Civil Liberties Union says the information can end up in Fusion Centers across the country.

"If you have a credit card or a bank loan, make an application for any governmental agency, where does all that data go and who has access to it?" Kramer asks. "What information they share, who supplies it, who is supposed to have access to it - they won't tell you, so there is no transparency, so there are all kinds of privacy issues that come into play."

At the Tennessee State Fusion Center in Nashville, local police, state and federal agencies work side by side.

Fusion centers were created in the post 9-11 world to fight terrorism. But a U.S. Senate report found Fusion Centers do little to counter terrorism and sometimes spied on innocent citizens.

Kramer questions, "If you go into Walmart and buy ammunition or you buy a magazine of a high capacity - which is in the news these days - is that information supplied to the Fusion Centers? Is it supplied to any other government agency?"

"Every Fusion Center is different just like every state is different," says Jerri Powell, who runs the Tennessee Fusion Center. "There is not information about everyone in the Fusion Center."

Powell says most of the information collected at the Tennessee center comes from police. That means if you have ever filed a police report, been in a car accident or received a traffic ticket, your name could pop up.

"The beauty of building the database is that it puts it in one central location so if you move from Memphis and you're in Nashville now, we can tell what you have been doing across the state - but it is information that is always available to the public," Powell says.

The stored information can be used at a later date for any reason. Right now, local police are helping the Nashville analysts create a database of gang members.

Powell explains, "They will identify their gang members in their areas and input the information into a database and that database will be shared with the entire state."

"The idea of a Fusion Center for the collection and sharing of intelligence information related to terrorism is a good idea," Kramer states. "As with a lot of good ideas, it's the implementation that causes problems."

The bottom line, Kramer says, is that we'll never really know what is collected at any of the Fusion Centers around the country.

"There are problems with having Big Brother watch you all the time."

The Memphis Real Time Crime Center is also considered a local Fusion Center; that information is linked to the state center in Nashville.

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