The automotive departments in the U.S. make millions of dollars from selling personal information from drivers to private investigators and other companies.
DMVs in several states sold data such as names, addresses, dates of birth, vehicles and other personal information to companies, according to an investigation by Motherboard.
The news agency claimed that the data was sold to a variety of companies that had approved purposes, such as insurance or towing companies. However, the investigation found that data was also sold to more questionable companies.
Automotive departments across the country are making millions of dollars from selling personal data from drivers to private investigators and other companies
The motherboard received hundreds of pages of documents from DMVs upon request for public records in various states and found several examples in practice.
Members of the public may not be aware that they can be resold for other purposes if they provide their name, address, and other information.
The DMV in Virginia sold data to 109 private investigators, while the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission sold data to at least 16 private investigators, according to tables from Motherboard.
"Selling personal data to third parties is broadly a data protection issue for everyone, and in particular a security issue for survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking," said Erica Olsen, director of Safety Net at National Network Ending domestic violence, Motherboard said in an email.
"For survivors, their security may depend on their ability to keep this type of information private."
Records retrieved from the news agency showed that the Wisconsin DMV had earned over $ 17 million from selling driver data.
In some cases, the data was sold to private investigators who specifically advertise fraud partner investigation services.
"They have to learn what they did, when they did it, who they did it with and how long it had been going on."
Automotive departments (DMVs) sold data such as names, addresses, dates of birth, vehicles, and other personal information to third parties in several states
In some cases, the DMV offers the DMV other personal data for the purpose of acquiring a driver's license or registering a vehicle for sale
"You have to see evidence with your own eyes," says Integrity Investigations, a private investigation firm that buys data from DMVs.
"As part of this Memorandum of Understanding, the requesting party is provided with electronic information about driving licenses and vehicles, including the release of authorized personal data," says an agreement between a DMV and its customers.
A number of DMVs have told Motherboard they don't sell pictures of driver's licenses or social security numbers.
Part of the data access occurs in large quantities, and other agreements allow a company to search for specific people according to the documents.
Contracts can run for months, and records can cost as little as $ 0.01 a piece, the documents say.
The motherboard reported that selling data to investigators is legal under the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).
The process of becoming a licensed private investigator varies from state to state and, according to several industry-related sources, can be rigorous.
However, various states allow licenses to be issued locally or investigators to operate without a license.
Critics believe that the driver's privacy laws need to be updated to reflect current privacy laws.
"The DPPA is one of several federal laws that should now be updated," wrote Marc Rotenberg, president and CEO of the data protection activism group EPIC, in an email.
"I would certainly reduce the number of gaps," he added, referring to how the law could be changed.
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