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U.S.

California DMV Makes 50 Million Dollars a Year Selling Drivers’ Info to Private Companies

An applicant reviews a driving handbook while waiting in line at the California DMV in Los Angeles,Calif. January 2, 2015. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

A California Department of Motor Vehicles document revealed that the government agency is generating $50 million a year by selling drivers’ personal information to private companies.

According to a report from VICE, which received the document through a public records request, revenue from selling information — which includes names, physical addresses, and car registration information — has climbed from $41 million in fiscal year 2013-2014 to $51 million in 2018-2019.

In an email explaining the numbers, the California DMV did not specify which private companies have purchased the data, but said the list may include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers. Past investigations into DMVs have shown that data broker LexisNexis and consumer credit reporting agency Experian are active participants in buying data.

“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,” public information officer Marty Greenstein wrote. “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.”

It is unclear how California’s DMV data-selling will be affected by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which will take effect in January. The law requires businesses, after passing a certain user or revenue threshold, to disclose any personal data they collect, the purpose of its collection, any third-party sharing, and an opt-out for any individual objecting to the selling or sharing of their data.

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