California DMV Makes Over $50 Million a Year Selling Drivers’ Personal Data, Vice Investigation Finds

A stack of California Department of Motor Vehicles driver's licenses are seen on May 9, 2017, in San Anselmo, California. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A stack of California Department of Motor Vehicles driver's licenses are seen on May 9, 2017, in San Anselmo, California. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new investigation by Vice found that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually by selling the personal information of drivers.

The data includes names, addresses and car registration information, the media outlet reported Monday.

Through a Public Records Act request, Vice uncovered the dollar amounts paid by commercial requesters to the DMV over the past six years.

The total amount climbed from $41.5 million in fiscal year 2013-2014 to $52.6 million in fiscal year 2017-2018, according to the DMV document that Vice obtained.

Insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and prospective employers are among those buying the personal data, Vice reported, citing an email from the DMV.

It was not immediately known which companies purchased the information, as the document did not name any of the requesters.

But in an earlier investigation of DMVs across the U.S., Vice noted that the names of some companies buying the data cropped up repeatedly, such as data broker LexisNexis and consumer credit reporting agency Experian. That investigation also found that DMVs were selling information to private investigators.

It was unclear if California had recently sold any data to such entities.

When asked by Vice if selling the data was essential to the agency, DMV spokesman Marty Greenstein responded in a statement that it helps promote public safety objectives such as insurance availability, traffic studies, background checks, vehicle recalls and risk assessment.

“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,” Greenstein’s statement read. “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.”

The report comes after the DMV revealed earlier this month that it had improperly disclosed  the private information of 3,200 people to seven other government agencies.

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