In a case of “what are they thinking,” the California DMV has admitted that it sells drivers’ information to the tune of $50 million a year, according to an investigation by Motherboard. Motherboard used a public record acts request to find out how much the California DMV was being paid by companies for driver data, as well as who was buying it.
“The responsive document shows the total revenue in financial year 2013/14 as $41,562,735, before steadily climbing to $52,048,236 in the financial year 2017/18.
“The document doesn’t name the commercial requesters, but some specific companies appeared frequently in Motherboard’s earlier investigation that looked at DMVs across the country. They included data broker LexisNexis and consumer credit reporting agency Experian. Motherboard also found DMVs sold information to private investigators, including those who are hired to find out if a spouse is cheating. It is unclear if the California DMV has recently sold data to these sorts of entities.
“In an email to Motherboard, the California DMV said that requesters may also include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers.”
A spokesman for the DMV said that the money goes toward public and highway safety, “including availability of insurance, risk assessment, vehicle safety recalls, traffic studies, emissions research, background checks, and for pre- and existing employment purposes.”
The DMV also said that any sale is in harmony with current legislation, and that it conducts regular reviews to make sure it sells data only to authorized entities.
While it’s common practice for DMVs to sell driver information, California has made a name for itself as a more privacy-conscious state than most. For it to be profiting from private data is not a good look, and will likely be met with protest as it becomes more widely known.