Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) around the country are making millions of dollars by taking driver’s personal information and selling it to businesses, including private investigators who spy on people for a profit, as reported by Motherboard. Some of the information is sold to insurance and tow companies, which is approved but other sales are to private investigators whose intentions can be more nefarious (though freight haulers have plenty of stories of nefarious towing operations). Not to mention the fact that motorists submit personal information to their local DMV for the purpose of obtaining a driver’s license. They have no idea this information is then sold to private companies.
The sale of this data to licensed private investigators is legal, due to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), a 90s era law written well before privacy became the issue it is today. As such, many lawmakers are calling for the law to be updated to reflect the world we currently live in. Of interest to those in the greater New York Metro area, Motherboard discovered that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has sold data to at least 16 private investigation firms. Though they did not obtain records from DMVs in all states. If DMVs selling data to private investigators wasn’t bad enough DPPA allows, and Motherboard confirmed, data sales to credit reporting companies, research companies, and bail bonds companies.
This is just the latest in a growing trend of states balancing their budgets off the backs of their hard-working residents and small businesses. The big moneymaker at the moment is cashless tolling, or more specifically, the business model designed to extract more money in fines, fees, and judgments, than in the tolls themselves. In fact, a class-action lawsuit in California alleges that Conduent (the cashless tolling company) is running afoul of the state’s privacy laws. To better accommodate cashless tolling is one of the main reasons New York is changing the license plate design (also necessary for the congestion pricing debt scheme). Oh, and to possibly extract an additional $20 or $25 from motorists (though that is up in the air).
It is not just government agencies targeting motorists but private companies looking to mine the data of passengers as well. Take Uber, one of if not the largest app-based ride-hailing company in the world, valued in the billions yet has never turned a profit. Many believe that Uber’s pathway to profitability lies in its treasure trove of trip data.
The national conversation about data mining and cybersecurity usually revolves around large tech companies such as Google and Facebook but clearly they are just the tip of the iceberg.