San Diego

CA DMV Makes $50M Selling Personal Data, Report Says

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles is selling customers’ personal information for millions of dollars, according to a report from VICE released this week. 

The report cites a CA DMV document that shows the “total annual revenue” from commercial requesters of data.

The state has collected about $50 million a year since 2015 providing registration and license data to various businesses, according to that document.

“[I’m] really irritated that they make that much money selling our personal information,” said Julian resident Dale Watterson while in line at the Hillcrest DMV Tuesday. “In this day of protecting your information, that’s just inexcusable.”

But the DMV is pushing back.

“The VICE headline is inaccurate,” said DMV Public Affairs Deputy Director Anita Gore.

Gore explained only certain groups, like insurance companies, background check businesses or car manufacturers, can seek the data.

The spokesperson said the $50 million a year is not profit, but rather just the cost of processing the requests for data.

“We do not put information up for sale,” Gore continued in a phone call with NBC 7.

However, the DMV did not provide a specific list of those businesses or companies who have paid for data.

And when asked if DMV customers are made aware their data may be sold, Gore asked, wouldn’t [NBC 7] want to know if a car manufacturer had a recall, and used the information to get in touch?

“We don’t want it to be just open sourced, where anybody who wants it can obtain our data for a fee,” said Identity Theft Resource Center CEO Eva Velasquez.

The data and privacy expert said companies buying data is not necessarily a bad thing, emphasizing this issue is nuanced.

“Often other organizations use that data in their fraud analytics, in their authentication process… however we need to be more transparent about it,” said Velasquez.

“People need to know if their data is being sold and to whom it is being sold and for what purpose,” she said.

“It is important to note DMV does not sell driver information for marketing purposes, or to generate revenue outside of the administrative cost of the program,” read a statement from the DMV.

“The DMV takes its obligation to protect personal information very seriously. Information is only released according to California law, and the DMV continues to review its release practices to ensure information is only released to authorized persons/entities and only for authorized purposes,” the statement continued.

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