The CBS television network affiliate in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area reported that the State of Texas made $2.1 million in 2012 by selling the personal information of Texas drivers. Who buys this information collected by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles:
"CBS 11’s I-Team Investigator Mireya Villarreal discovered nearly 2,500 agencies or businesses purchased the DMV’s data in some form last year. On this list there are towing companies, collection agencies, insurance companies, hospitals, banks, schools, city governments, and even private investigators."
The Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) limits who can buy this information and what they can do with it. The report also highlighted the situation that Texas drivers cannot opt out of these sales.
CBS 11 provided a spreadsheet file which listed the companies that purchased information about Texas drivers. I spent some time reviewing the spreadsheet file and found:
- What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. Companies from 30 different states purchased the information about Texas drivers
- Information about Texas drivers is popular. About 2,450 companies purchased information from at least 12 different business types
- Expected the unexpected. Businesses that purchased driver data included some you'd expect (e.g., auto dealers, banks, finance companies, title services), but also some you might not expect. The list of business types included auto actions, auto dealers, banks/credit unions, city agencies, collection agencies, finance companies, private investigators, salvage yards, title services, universities and colleges, and wrecker services
- Other who? The "Other" business type seemed to include some interesting organization names from the legal, oil, healthcare, software, and telecommunications industries; plus federal government agencies and some high schools.
The report did not mention the number records each company purchased, the total number of records purchased, or who the largest purchasers were. Knowing this would have enabled a deeper analysis. Then, you could compute an implied value to an average Texas driver's record.
The best comparison I can make is that the State of Florida made about $63 million in 2010 by selling drivers information, with an average value per record of about $ .01. This makes one wonder if Texas government officials did a poor job of selling driver information, or Florida government officials did an exceptional job.
While I didn't see in the Texas list of purchasers the high-profile names of data brokers from the Florida sales, I assume that intermediaries were used.
After reading the Texas DMV webpage about the DPPA, I felt that this page could do a far better job of informing consumers what is really happening. Other states say little in their websites about the money they make from DPPA sales.
What do you think of your state making money by selling your personal information?