If you thought the massive increase in registration and tax fees at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was upsetting, you’ll be incensed to learn that the CA DMV is also selling drivers’ personal information to third parties for upwards of $50 million per year.
According to an investigation by Motherboard (VICE), the CA DMV – and this doesn’t mean that other states’ DMVs aren’t doing the same thing, by the way – is selling the names, addresses, and car registration information of drivers to outside entities as a type of “side hustle.”
Public records show that this has been happening for at least the past six years, as California drew in $41.6 million in fiscal year 2013-2014, and $51.6 million during the most recent fiscal year. This averages out to around $50 million per year and rising.
While it remains unclear as to the identities of these outside third parties, the CA DMV has said that insurance companies, car manufacturers, and even “prospective employers” are among the potential buyers.
The reason for the earlier emphasis on other state DMVs possibly doing the same thing is that a related investigation by Motherboard found that many other state DMVs are, in fact, selling private, personal information about drivers to data brokers like LexisNexis, as well as consumer credit reporting bureaus like Experian.
State DMVs have even been caught selling personal data to private investigators, including those who advertise their services in helping people figure out whether their spouses are cheating on them.
“That data can also include a person’s nine-digit ZIP code, date of birth, phone number, and email address,” writes Sven Gustafson for the Yahoo! News Autoblog.
Be sure to check out this article we published back in 2015 that talks about how the CA DMV was caught ordering its workers to overlook identity theft being committed by illegal aliens.
Seeing as how California has a strict law on the books to protect against this type of data leakage, it would appear as though the Golden State is violating its own laws. The same goes for the rest of the country, which is similarly bound by a federal law known as the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act” that limits the disclosure of personal information by state DMVs.
A spokesman for the CA DMV reportedly told Motherboard that the sale of personal data benefits programs associated with highway and public safety, “including availability of insurance, risk assessment, vehicle safety recalls, traffic studies, emissions research, background checks, and for pre- and existing employment purposes.”
“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,” this spokesman went on to claim.
In California, at least, the state DMV also reportedly audits data requesters to ensure that proper audit logs are being maintained, and that employees are being properly trained in how to protect DMV information so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
But is this actually what’s happening in the real world? Not according to a slew of senators and digital privacy efforts who oppose the sale of DMV. Senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders is one such politician who says that DMV data should never be sold.
“So why are they paying a fee for a license if their data is being sold?” asked one Yahoo! News commenter. “Isn’t that payment enough?”
“If they’re selling my information then I want the money,” piped in another.
For more related news about corruption in state and local governments, be sure to check out Corruption.news.
Sources for this article include: