DMVs Can — and Do — Collect and Sell Your Personal Data

If living in the information age has taught us anything, it’s that our personal information is not safe in the hands of private companies. It’s somewhat more disconcerting to learn that our information is not safe in the hands of the government either. For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) supplements its income by selling drivers’ personal information, including their names, dates of birth, addresses, and the cars they own — to third parties. Florida’s DMVs made $77 million that way, and California raked in $52 million. They’re not the only ones — DMVs across the country are profiting as well. This is all legal under a 1994 federal law known as the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). The law was intended to limit public access to personal data after a woman was murdered by a stalker who had hired a private investigator to obtain her address from DMV records. The DPPA outlines 14 exceptions to the limitations on selling and disclosing data, including one for private investigators. How does this affect you? Your state’s lax attitude toward privacy could be adding to your pile of junk mail, and once your information is sold to a third party, it can be sold again and again. While a trove of Senators have spoken out against DMVs selling your personal information, no laws to prevent it have been introduced to date.