State DMVs Are Selling Your Data for Big Dollars

 Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is probably making money out of your private information. It’s going to credit agencies, shadowy data brokers and even private dicks.

Despite the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, state DMVs continue to sell your data. Potentially, it’s a stalker’s paradise. And the revelation is spawning the frothiest of column inches.

But wait. What exactly did you expect? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we’re designated to drive the story home.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: ERB.


DMV vs. DPPA … FIGHT!

What’s the craic? Joseph Cox reports—“The California DMV Is Making $50M a Year”:

 DMVs across the country are selling data that drivers are required to provide to the organization in order to obtain a license. [It] includes names, physical addresses, and car registration information.

Commercial requesters of data … included data broker LexisNexis … consumer credit reporting agency Experian [and] private investigators, including those who are hired to find out if a spouse is cheating. … The California DMV said that requesters may also include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers.

[We] asked the California DMV for the total dollar amounts paid. … The total revenue in financial year 2013/14 [was] $41,562,735, before steadily climbing to $52,048,236 in … 2017/18.

One of the main pieces of legislation that governs the sale of DMV data stemmed from a case in California. Lawmakers introduced the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in 1994 after a private investigator hired by a stalker obtained the address of actress Rebecca Schaeffer from the DMV. The stalker went on to kill Schaeffer.

What were they thinking? Matt Milano adds—“California DMV Selling Drivers’ Personal Information”:

 In a case of “what are they thinking,” the California DMV has admitted that it sells drivers’ information to the tune of $50 million a year. … While it’s common practice for DMVs to sell driver information, California has made a name for itself as a more privacy-conscious state.

For it to be profiting from private data is not a good look, and will likely be met with protest as it becomes more widely known.

And Rob Thubron initials his surprise—“Your name, address, and registration could be for sale”:

 WTF?! We’re used to hearing about big tech companies selling our private data, but they’re not the only ones doing it. DMVs across the nation are also making money off the practice.

The news isn’t going to be welcomed by privacy advocates, despite some DMVs confirming they have now stopped data access for certain commercial requesters after they abused the information. … Marty Greenstein, public information officer at the California DMV, wrote … ”Information is only released pursuant to legislative direction, and the DMV continues to review its release practices to ensure information is only released to authorized persons/entities and only for authorized purposes. The DMV also audits requesters to ensure proper audit logs are maintained and that employees are trained in the protection of DMV information and anyone having access to this information sign a security document.”

What if WhatIfBrigade—@BrigadeIf—sounded slightly sarcastic?

 See also: California & New York proposals for a govt real estate database to track the real names of property buyers. Which totally won’t be used by ICE, stalkers, and domestic abusers to locate victims.

So Squid Surprise doesn’t sound surprised:

 And people say the internet is unsafe. Turns out everything is unsafe! I suspect we are entering … an era where there is no longer such a thing as “private data”.

Start living your life as if everything you do is public and you’ll get along just fine.

Wait. Pause. Is this story a tiny bit overhyped? Piero Rocca—@drinkfresca—thinks so:

 You do realize your license is government ID and that companies like banks and lenders and even Airbnb need to authenticate a consumer’s identity? You’d rather the gov’t give away that service for free?

And AHuxley feels brave, new and worldly:

 Can’t ask the gov for background checks? That would be an interesting change to laws.

That’s why background checks are done. So the person “working” has the qualification needed to be trusted with a car, van, truck, suv—trusted with the contents, any passengers.

And falcolas digs deeper:

 Your driving record is indeed a public record. … I would bet fairly good money that this originally came about as part of a government transparency effort – allowing the public to provide a check and balance against the DMV’s power, with a monetary cost to cover processing expenses (theoretically saving tax money).

That it’s been co-opted for marketing isn’t really surprising; most of your public records are consumed by private companies to use to make money off you. One big example is how legal proceedings show up on your credit report.

Government accountability efforts mis-used by private corporations?

But so what? ShanghaiBill calculates how to split the bill:

 California has 26 million licensed drivers, so $52M is $2 per driver. Two bucks is the price the State of California puts on the privacy of citizens.

Meanwhile, Wh1skey sees lessons from h1story: [You’re fired—Ed.]

 The story of Rome’s fall is both complicated and relatively straightforward yet it eerily resembles America: The state became too big and chaotic; the influence of money and private interests corrupted public institutions; and social and economic inequalities became so large that citizens lost faith in the system altogether.

The parallels to our current political moment are striking.

And Finally:

The Joker vs. Pennywise

Previously in And Finally


You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or sbbw@richi.uk. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Image source: Brian Cantoni (cc:by)

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Richi Jennings

Richi is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, writer, and fan of the Oxford comma. He’s previously written or edited for Computerworld, Petri, Microsoft, HP, Cyren, Webroot, Micro Focus, Osterman Research, Ferris Research, NetApp on Forbes and CIO.com. His work has won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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