DMVs are making millions selling drivers’ personal data

DMVs are making millions selling drivers’ personal data to companies including private investigators who spy on cheating spouses

Departments of Motor Vehicles across the U.S. are making millions of dollars from selling drivers’ personal information on to private investigators and other businesses. 
DMVs in several states sold data including names, addresses, dates of birth, vehicle and other personal information to companies, an investigation by Motherboard reveals.  
The news outlet claimed that the data was sold to a variety of business which have approved purposes, such as to insurance or tow companies. However the investigation revealed that data was sold to more questionable businesses too.

Motor Vehicle departments across the country are making millions of dollars from selling drivers’ personal information on to private investigators and other businesses

Motherboard obtained hundreds of pages of documents from DMVs through public records request in different states and found multiple examples of the practice. 
Members of the public may not be aware that when they provide their name, addresses and other information, it could then be sold on for other uses.  
The Virginia DMV sold data to 109 private investigator firms, while the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has sold data to at least 16 private investigation firms, according to spreadsheets viewed by Motherboard.  

‘The selling of personally identifying information to third parties is broadly a privacy issue for all and specifically a safety issue for survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking,’ Erica Olsen, director of Safety Net at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told Motherboard in an email. 
‘For survivors, their safety may depend on their ability to keep this type of information private.’
Records retrieved by the news outlet revealed that the Wisconsin DMV made over $17 million selling drivers’ data. 
In some cases, the data was sold to private investigators who specifically advertise services to investigate cheating partners.
‘You need to learn what they’ve been doing, when they’ve been doing it, who they’ve been doing it with and how long it has been going on. 

Departments of Motor Vehicles, (DMVs), in several states, sold data including names, addresses, dates of birth, vehicle and other personal information to third parties

In some cases other personal information to the DMV for the purposes of getting a driver’s license or registering a vehicle, the DMV will then offer that information for sale

‘You need to see proof with your own eyes,’reads the website of Integrity Investigations, one private investigator firm that buys data from DMVs.
‘Under this MOU [memorandum of understanding], the Requesting Party will be provided, via remote electronic means, information pertaining to driver licenses and vehicles, including personal information authorized to be released,’ one agreement between a DMV and its clients reads.
A number of DMVs told Motherboard that they do not sell images from people’s driver licenses or social security numbers.
Some of the data access is done in bulk, and other agreements enable a company to lookup specific individuals, according to the documents. 
Contracts also can roll for months at a time, and records can cost as little as $0.01 each, the documents add.
Motherboard reported that the practice of selling data to investigators is legal, due to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). 
The process of becoming a licensed private investigator varies from state to state, and can be strict, according to multiple s close to the industry. 
But different states permit licensing to be granted on a local level or investigators to operate without a license.
Critics believe the Driver’s Privacy Protection Acts need to be updated to reflect current privacy laws.
‘The DPPA is one of several federal laws that should now be updated,’ Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of privacy activism group EPIC, wrote in an email. 
‘I would certainly reduce the number of loopholes,’ he added, referring to how the law might be changed.
 
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