This Motherboard Report Found the California DMV Has Been Selling Driver Data to Private Investigators

Most of them specialised in surveillance and alleged infidelity...

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Following their report that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has been making $50 million a year selling drivers’ personal information, Motherboard found that some of this data has been sold to private investigators.

The DMV denies selling any information at all – persisting that it “follows state and federal laws around the disclosure of driver license or vehicle registration information” and merely “recovers the cost of providing information as allowed by law”. However, under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which was written in 1994, it is explicitly stated that the sale of data to private investigators is allowed.

According to their report, a number of the 98,000 entities that have obtained some DMV data (which includes insurance companies, trucking companies, and employers), were private investigators dealing in the likes of family infidelity and surveillance. One PI who purchased DMV information from another state told Motherboard that he uses it to get “driver license [sic] information on subjects [he] may be investigating”.

Despite the sale of driver data to PI’s being legal, the California DMV did urge that “it has terminated or suspended a commercial entity’s access to the data based on improper access or use of the information,” and, according to Motherboard, “privacy activists and policymakers have called for changes in legislation around the DPPA since Motherboard revealed the widespread sale of DMV data across the country”.

That the California DMV has been selling driver information to private investigators was first reported by Motherboard.