NYS Exposed: Who's buying your DMV information?

May 23, 2018 08:20 AM

Each year, the New York DMV makes millions by selling your information to the highest bidder.

There is nothing you can do about it. It is completely legal. The practice is protected by federal and state law.

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States are banned from selling certain information to anyone who does not have what is considered “permissible use.”

The DMV said it is needed for warranties, recalls, making sure school bus drivers are cleared for work, and for keeping auto insurance pricing fair. It cannot be used for marketing or solicitations and social security numbers are never given out.

“I think very few people are even aware of this,” State Senator Joe Robach said.

Sen. Robach, a Republican representing the 56th district, and other state lawmakers are pushing new legislation to add transparency to the process.

By law, the DMV is required to inform drivers of what it is doing and it has to let you know you can opt out.

“That’s what the legislation would do,” Sen. Robach added. “Make people fully aware of it, have to be notified, and then say you can check off so you’re not on that list and they can’t sell your individual, even limited, information.”

The DMV details how it shares information on its website, but there are no signs at local branches or disclaimers on registration documents.

There is also nothing letting drivers know how the deletion process works.  

The DMV said it eliminates the need to inform customers about it because the only information sold is what is allowed and this avoids any confusion.

However, critics argue the DMV is going the long way around in breaking its own law.

“It’s almost as though the taxpayer is being hoodwinked,” Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns said. “I do think there is a breach of confidence and trust by not giving people that opportunity, their legal right if they don’t want their information sold to a third party.”

After conducting a survey, Kearns believes most New Yorkers would opt out if they knew how to. He also said they should know who has their information.

So News10NBC searched and found records showing that in 2013 and 2016, six companies won contracts from the DMV.  They paid more than a combined $8.6 million for the data.

When asked what they do with it, Experian never responded. The others -- Carfax, R.L. Polk & Co., Statistical Surveys, Info-Link Technologies, and Verihull -- buy the information to use in similar ways. It is used to help boat or car dealers to understand their market share, for safety reasons, history reports, and recalls.

All of that is legal.

Kearns said opting out would make sure those are the only ways your information is being used.

“We don’t know if these third parties are complying with the law,” Kearns added. “We do not know that and that concerns me.”

The NY DMV also does pay-per-search and over-the-counter sales. Those bring in another $61 million each year. The money goes into the state’s general fund.

You can find out who is buying your information, but you will have to put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the state. That takes time and money.

DMV spokesperson Lisa Koumjian issued the following statement on the DMV selling information:

“DMV does not sell customer names or addresses for marketing purposes. Social Security Numbers are never sold. Any disclosure of registration data by DMV is in compliance with state law and the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and in service of important goals, like safe school bus operation, fair auto insurance pricing, and allowing auto manufacturers to provide vehicle owners with vital safety and warranty notices. For example, providing data to school bus operators allows employers to know that bus drivers have not been convicted of alcohol or speed violations, and allowing auto manufacturers to provide owners with safety and warranty notices ensures that drivers can take their vehicles in to correct the problem.”


Brennan Somers

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