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California DMV Selling Drivers’ Personal Information

Motherboard initially exposed the California DMV for this practice in September. Now an additional report shows an increase in the amount of money California now makes via selling citizens’ personal data.

The revenue generated by this process brings in a reported $50,000,000 annually. And this phenomenon has surreptitiously become a practice in several states over the past decade. Physical addresses, driver names, and car registration information are all up for grabs. The Motherboard report didn’t disclose a list of the parties purchasing data, but they were able to ascertain a few of the major players involved in a prior report a few years back. Unsurprisingly, data broker LexisNexis and credit reporting agency Experian were and likely still are big buyers. Private investigators, insurance companies, employers, and vehicle manufacturers were also cited as frequent buyers.According to Marty Greenstein, a public information officer at the California DMV, these funds support public initiatives.

These initiatives include increasing availability of insurance, paying for emissions research, and broadly furthering objectives related to highway safety. “The DMV takes its obligation to protect personal information very seriously. Information is only released pursuant to legislative direction, and the DMV continues to review its release practices to ensure information is only released to authorized persons/entities and only for authorized purposes.” The legislation in question here is the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits data disclosure with a few crucial exemptions. Most notably, the practice is permitted by any government agency which deems it necessary, by businesses looking to verify the accuracy of personal information, and by insurance companies. And considering that LexisNexis is on the books, the data can be used for targeted advertising as well.

Unfortunately these data sales are out of the consumer’s control at the moment. After Motherboard’s report, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke on the matter in an attempt to bring it to the national conversation. He criticized the Department, saying “The DMV should not use its trove of personal information as a tool to make money. While the internet has been an enormous source for good, all that convenience and connection has come with a price: our privacy has been invaded in an unprecedented way, in a manner that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago.” And while these comments haven’t exactly galvanized a movement to stop this practice, it’s certainly brought the issue to the table. As always, the mission of BIGtoken is to educate our audience about the state of data privacy in today’s world. The first step toward change is awareness, and we hope you’re now more aware of this unjust practice.

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