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, including California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which generates $50 million per year from the sale of drivers’ personal information.
The revelation comes via a report from Motherboard, which used a public records acts request to discover how much firms are paying the California DMV for data. During the financial year 2017/2018, it was $52,048,236, up from $41,562,735 in 2013/2014. The information includes names, physical addresses, and car registrations.
While the document doesn’t specify which companies requested the information, some names appeared frequently in Motherboard’s earlier investigation into DMVs across the US. These included data broker LexisNexis and credit agency Experian. Some DMVs also sold information to private investigators, who, in some cases, were hired to discover if spouses were cheating.
California DMV said requesters might also include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers. As for what happens to all that money, a spokesperson said it goes toward “public and highway safety, “including availability of insurance, risk assessment, vehicle safety recalls, traffic studies, emissions research, background checks, and for pre- and existing employment purposes.”
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.
When asked about the sale of the data, Marty Greenstein, public information officer at the California DMV, wrote: "The DMV takes its obligation to protect personal information very seriously. 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."
This isn’t the first privacy scandal to hit the DMV. Back in July, it was reported that the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been using photos from the agencies for facial recognition searches, all without the license holders’ consent.
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