California DMV Raked In $50M/Year Selling Driver Personal Data, Is This OK?

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California, a state that is known for its tough talk on privacy regulations, is coming under fire for its own actions regarding the misuse use of drivers’ personal information. Thanks to an inquiry by Motherboard, it's been discovered that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been selling private records to third parties, and has been pulling in quite a bit of money in the process over the past decade. According to the report, during the fiscal 2017/2018 period alone, the California DMV pulled in over $52 million by selling this data.

Personal information within the records contains drivers’ full name, physical address, and car registration. However, the California DMV asserts that nothing nefarious is going on with its actions, and that its main "customers" for this private data include insurance companies and prospective employers (among other interested parties). We can't help but wonder if those dreaded, spammy phone calls saying that "Your vehicle warranty is expiring" are from parties interested in purchasing this information.

"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," said DMV spokesman Marty Greenstein in a statement to Motherboard. "The DMV also audits requesters to ensure proper audit logs are maintained and that employees are trained in the protection of DMV information and anyone having access to this information sign a security document."

This assertion that it's in the public interest to sell user data seems rather hypocritical at face value. California has been staunchly protective of customer privacy rights and champions its policies at every possible opportunity. Just this past February, California representatives looked to hold tech companies' feet to the fire over privacy violations by Google and Amazon with smart speakers like the Google Home and Amazon Echo respectively. Yet California doesn't seem to have any problem profiting of the sale of its citizens' data to the tune of $41 million, $44 million, $49 million, and $51 million for FY 13/14, FY 14/15, FY 15/16, and FY 16/17 respectively.

"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,” said California DMV spokesperson Anita Gore in a statement to Fox Business. “The DMV also audits requesters to ensure proper audit logs are maintained and that employees are trained in the protection of DMV information.”

That is likely little consolation to Californians that had no idea that the DMV was making money hand over fist with their private information.

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