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Our View: Data miners have ally in Florida DMV

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THE ISSUE: Florida DMV sells personal information to data-mining companies. OUR OPINION: A bad practice that should end.

When you apply for a license to drive in the state, you are required to provide the Department of Motor Vehicles a lot of personal information, such as your Social Security number, your address and date of birth. This is information reasonably required by the state in order to license drivers.

But most people don’t know some of this data is being sold by the state to companies that resell the data to marketers, private investigators, credit reporting agencies and others that mine for data and resell it.

 

Last year, the state DMV made $63 million selling data on Florida drivers such as name, address and date of birth. They did not sell Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers.

And it is all perfectly legal. According to the DMV, misuse of this information is protected under the Federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits the release of some personal information from state motor vehicle records and provides penalties for its misuse.

We believe sharing this data is appropriate and reasonable when provided to companies with a legitimate need for the information, such as insurance companies and automobile companies, so vehicle owners can be located for recall notices. However, the DMV has gone beyond this use in selling information to companies that are in the business of gathering personal data on individuals.

When we provide information to a government agency, we assume it will be used for legitimate government business. We do not expect it will be resold to companies that will use this information as part of their effort to put together personal profiles that can be resold to other companies.

While we appreciate that the DMV believes there are protections in place to prevent misuse of the personal information they sell, the practice of selling personal information raises important questions about potential abuses of privacy. We believe government ought to use the personal information it collects from individuals for legitimate government needs and share it only with companies with a legal right to obtain it, such as insurance companies and employers.

Selling it to data-mining companies may generate a little revenue for cash-strapped government agencies, but selling personal data is not a legitimate government activity and needs to stop. With identity theft being one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country, we do not think the state government ought to be peddling to third parties personal information residents are required to provide in order to obtain a license to drive.