The State of Florida Made $63 Million in 2010 Selling Drivers' Personal Data. What About Your State?
Business Insider reported that the state of Florida sells the personal information of drivers:
"... to private investigators and research services for years with last year's sale bringing in almost $63 million. Reported by News Channel 5 in Tampa, the state sells nearly all the information on every license including birth dates and drivers license numbers."
The news report listed the price at $ .01 price per drivers record. That sounds awfully low -- too low -- given the data elements purchased and the reliable data source (e.g., the State of Florida). Do you think your personal information is worth more than a penny? I do and guess that you do, too.
The companies that purchase Florida drivers' information include some familiar names: Acxiom Information Securities Service, Inc., Choice Point, E-Funds, Explore Information Services, LexisNexis, Line Barge, Goggan, Blair, & Simpson, Inc., SC Services, ShadowSoft, TLO LLC, and West Services Inc..
The Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is Federal law enacted in 1994, long before corporate data breaches, digitized profiles, and privacy became the problems we have today. The DPPA regulates what personal information must be protected, and can (cannot) be sold by states. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC):
"The DPPA was passed in reaction to the a series of abuses of drivers' personal information held by government. The 1989 death of actress Rebecca Schaeffer was a prominent example of such abuse. In that case, a private investigator, hired by an obsessed fan, was able to obtain Rebecca Schaeffer's address through her California motor vehicle record. The fan used her address information to stalk and to kill her. Other incidents cited by Congress included a ring of Iowa home robbers who targeted victims by writing down the license plates of expensive cars..."
Some states have laws providing greater protections for drivers' personal information. There have been at least two class-action lawsuits for alleged DPPA violations.
Does your state sell drivers' personal information? Probably. It can be difficult to determine. Often, there is a disclosure in your state government motor vehicle registry website about the DPPA and what your state does (and does not) sell. For example, the Massachusetts RMV website:
"The DPPA restricts the disclosure of personal information, as defined in 18 U.S.C §2725. Personal information is information that identifies an individual, including name, address, driver's license number, social security number*, photograph* and medical information... The DPPA only restricts personal information. Information on vehicular accidents, driving violations and driver's status is not personal information. Also, information that does not pertain to an individual would not be considered personal information."
Like other states, only "Permitted Users" can buy this drivers personal information, and the state supposedly verifies both the purchasers' identities and whether the purchasers' usage post-sale complies with the law. So, drivers personal information is being sold. I wasn't able to find a disclosure about the annual total amount of revenues from DPPA sales.
Another example from the New York State DMV:
"You must have a DPPA permissible use to request DMV records that contain personal information. Personal information includes name, address, or Client ID Number (Driver License Number). You must certify that you have a permissible use when you request records that contain personal information... The DMV records that are frequently requested are driver abstracts, registration abstracts, title abstracts, and accident reports... The DMV normally does not provide a history of the ownership or the mileage of a vehicle... To request a vehicle ownership history, you must certify that you have a DPPA permissible use for the information... The National Driver Register (NDR) is a database maintained by the Federal government. The NDR lists: the drivers from each US state who have a driver license that is suspended or revoked, and the drivers who were convicted of a serious traffic violation like DWI or a drug-related violation. Motor vehicle bureaus in the US provide the NDR with the names of persons who lose the privilege to drive or who were convicted of serious traffic violations... You can use form NDR-1 to search the NDR. Information from the NDR must comply with the DPPA."
Another example from Texas:
"... the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), makes it illegal for the general public, including the media, to obtain, publish or confirm personal information about you from the state motor vehicle database. The law does provide exceptions for certain entities, such as courts and police. Texas law provides additional protection under the Motor Vehicle Records Disclosure Act, and the Public Information Act (Section 552.130)."
Personally, I don't believe that Florida (and other states) should sell drivers personal information to information brokers, regardless of the uses claimed by the data brokers. It effectively, makes the data publicly available to everyone, "permitted uses" or not.
The states' DPPA disclosures which I have read are often long, difficult to read, and at times confusing. The information could be presented far better with pages containing separate summaries, instructions, and forms for each target audience (e.g., individuals/residents, companies, state/local agencies, law enforcement/courts, etc.). When there are additional state laws providing broader protections, you almost have to be an attorney in order to reconcile the multiple laws to understand exactly what is protected and sold.
Kudos to News Channel 5 in Tampa for the good investigative journalism.
What is your opinion? Should states sell drivers personal information? Is the price Florida charged too low?