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One More Reason to Dislike Your State’s DMV

For those who have suffered through seemingly endless, slow-moving lines at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”), only to come up against rude, condescending, petty bureaucrats, there is a brand-new reason to dislike and fear that particular agency.  Many DMVs are augmenting their legislative budget allotments by selling motorists’ personal information often unbeknownst to them.

Up to now, consumers just thought they only had to worry about their personal information where privately-owned companies and corporations were concerned.

This practice was made legal by an act of Congress, oxymoronically called the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”). The DPPA resulted from a woman’s death at the hands of a stalker who got her address from a private detective who in turn got it from DMV records. Ironically, one of the 14 exceptions to the DPPA’s prohibitions to data-mining through DMV records applies to private detectives.

Results from the sale of drivers’ personal information by DMVs are not limited to instances like automobile manufacturers being able to contact owners for recall notices. Corporations and companies are now able to send junk mail hawking automobile accessories, extended warranties, and insurance policies. They, in turn, may sell that information to others, who may sell it to others, ad infinitum.

Condemning this practice, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden proposed that “Congress should take a close look at the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and, if necessary, close loopholes that are being abused to spy on Americans.” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said “The DMV should not use its trove of personal information as a tool to make money.”

State motor vehicle bureaus in California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and many others do indeed make respectable amounts of money selling information about automobile registrants. In 2017, California’s DMV reported an income of $52 million from information sales.

Florida’s DMV reported an income of $77 million from information sales during that same period. Connecticut Senator William Blumenthal observed that “DMVs should not be in the business of selling drivers’ personal information to third parties.” 



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