If you have been to the DMV recently, there is a possibility they are selling personal information that belongs to you to a third-party. You might not think of privacy when you think of a government-issued ID, but DMV privacy is a serious matter. For years, consumers have been cautioned about protecting their sensitive information and not handing it over to anyone who asks for it. From summer camps to schools or doctors’ offices, the amount of sensitive information that some entities gather and store is more than one might think. Often, these organizations do not even know why they are collecting such an invasive amount of data and how it is being protected.
What do you do when you have no choice but to comply? After all, you are not getting a credit card, a home or even utilities without turning over a lot of your data. You also have no way of knowing how it will be protected, who can access it, and worse, what the organization can do with it intentionally.
A new report by Motherboard sheds light on a very alarming trend: DMVs in several different states are selling personal information that belongs to drivers’ to third-parties for as little as one cent per record. While the DMVs claim they did not sell photographs or Social Security numbers, many of them acknowledged that one of the biggest clients they are selling personal information to is private investigators.
An individual can hire a private investigator to gather information on you or surveil your location, and the private investigator may be very successful in learning more about you thanks to the information that was legally purchased from your own driver’s license office. This is especially chilling since many private investigators openly state they will take cases involving cheating spouses or divorce. The potential for an abusive partner to hire a private investigator and track down the whereabouts of a former partner is bone-chilling.
Unfortunately, this is also legal. Under a nearly thirty-year-old law called the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act,” or DPPA, the DMV can legally profit by providing your data to outside agencies like towing companies, insurance providers and private investigators. That is especially troublesome since there is no nationwide set of standards and ethics for public investigators, and in some states, it requires nothing more than paying what amounts to a filing fee to become licensed.
What is the public supposed to do about DMVs selling personal information? Unless you can successfully live completely off the grid, and have done so for your entire life, ensuring that no one has your information, there is not much you can do. If you want to drive a car or carry state-issued photo identification, your information is going in the computer. Depending on where you live, it is lining their coffers, too.
However, you can take action to get the DPPA changed. Lawmakers are already investigating whether this law is too outdated in the current climate of data breaches, identity theft and privacy violations.
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