Texas DMV Sells Personal Information To Hundreds Of Companies; Drivers Not Allowed To Opt-Out

from the thanks-for-providing-this-valuable-info-via-our-mandatory-vehicle-registration-p dept

Fun, dubious, privacy-violating stuff happening out in Texas where the Dept. of Motor Vehicles has made a tidy sum selling the information it collects (including names, addresses and makes/models owned) to a variety of private companies.

The Texas DMV claims its “top priority” is protecting drivers’ information, but that hardly seems to be the case when it’s pulling in $2.1 million a year selling it off. There are protections in place, but they are flimsy at best.

“The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is the custodian of over 22 million currently registered vehicles in the state of Texas,” Randy Elliston, Director of the Texas DMV, explained. “All of those records that are in our database, however, are protected under the Driver Privacy Protection Act.”

Randy Elliston says the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) limits who can buy your information and what they can do with it.

It would be interesting to see what these “limits” are. The spreadsheet obtained by CBS 11 of Dallas, TX shows that 2,448 different entities purchased this information from the DMV last year. The purchasers listed range from towing companies to debt collectors to university parking lot patrols. Elliston states that the purchasing companies are not allowed to use the information for direct contact or advertising purposes.

A brief look at the spreadsheet seems to indicate the opposite: auto dealers make up the largest percentage of purchasers. Moreover, Elliston seems to have his facts wrong on the Driver Privacy Protection Act, at least as it pertains to Texas drivers.

The Driver Privacy Protection Act is a federal law. And the fine print actually says businesses can use your information for marketing or solicitations if the state has obtained your consent. That means, some drivers can opt in or out of these databases.

Problem is – Texas didn’t adopt that portion of the law. So, drivers in the Lone Star State are stuck.

This has opened up driver data to nearly anyone who wants it. The spreadsheet shows insurance companies, debt collection agencies, title loan specialists, towing services and auctioneers all have access to these records. The response from Elliston? If you don’t like it, complain about it.

Elliston says if you feel like your information is being abused you can report the company. “It has occurred in the past and when it has we’ve pulled the company’s ability to use that data,” Elliston noted.

Well, that is one way to deal with an influx of unsolicited mail after registering your vehicle to comply with state law. Another, better, way to deal with it would be to adopt the opt-in/out language that’s currently missing. Registering a vehicle isn’t optional, but having your name, address and vehicle info turned over to whoever requests it certainly should be.

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Comments on “Texas DMV Sells Personal Information To Hundreds Of Companies; Drivers Not Allowed To Opt-Out”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

no, it ain’t right…
(and i’m guessing you know that and were being slightly sarcastic…)

the way our society is built, UNLESS you live in a city center, you HAVE TO have a vehicle to EFFICIENTLY get around, much less keep a job, haul stuff, run errands, etc…

we DO NOT -in general- build our cities and ‘burbs’ to suit pedestrians, bikes, and public transport in general; it is ALL ABOUT the cars and building EVERYTHING to suit THEM…

just like whichever country the other day (netherlands?) saying that inertnet access is basically a human right (which i agree with), so is driving…

unless/until we have infrastructure DESIGNED to promote pedestrians, public transport, etc, it is unfair to call driving a ‘privilege’…

okay, so #2533766 in an infinite series of unfair/unjust situations in ‘our’ (sic) society…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Aurock (profile) says:

Isn't that backwards?

The article seems to say that because Texas hasn’t implemented an opt-out system, everyone’s data is subject to be sold for solicitation & marketing purposes. Reading the law linked to from the article, it seems to say just the opposite.

As I understand it, the federal law says the data can be sold for surveys & solicitation only if the state has given drivers the opportunity to opt out. If the state hasn’t implemented such an opt-out system, then they can’t sell the information to companies who will use it for such purposes.

ECA (profile) says:


WE pay THEM…
THEN pay ant insurance agent, because its illegal to dive without..
THEN they SELL the data?? and make MORE money??

Pay the cops?
To find those running around without a drivers license?
To find those without Insurance??
TO TAKE your car away, because you dont have either??

A drivers license does not tell, that you KNOW how to drive..
Insurance is for the person that does NOT want to pay out of pocket…for THEIR OWN mistakes..

Im sorry, IMHO, driving should be a spectator sport..
ENOUGH ID, to know WHO hit you, track them down and send the law AFTER THE FACT..
PUT UPC Scan codes across the bumpers. And let them go at it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“They can do this? I’d have figured they’d be in trouble since you absolutlely have to register at the DMV even if you don’t drive a car.”

They can do whatever they like, so long as it doesn’t violate federal law.

Wait, what? Why are you registering at the DMV if you don’t drive a car?

Anonymous Coward says:

The federal DPPA requires opt-out for certain cases (I read the law at the link) and not for others. The list of cases when information can be disclosed include:
(1) law enforcement
(2) a list of miscellaneous exceptions including recalls and “market research”
(3) by any business to verify contact information
(4) courts (for any reason, including serving papers)
(5) research (as long as personal information is not published and individuals not contacted)
(6) insurers (for most anything they’d care about)
(7) providing notice to owners of towed/impounded vehicles
(8) private investigators
(9) employers verifying CDLs (commercial drivers licenses)
(10) operation of private toll transportation facilities (???)
(11) “other use” (requires opt-out)
(12) surveys, marketing, and solicitation (requires opt-out–but note market research can include surveys)
(13) any requester who can demonstrate they have written consent of the individual
(14) “For any other use specifically authorized under the law of the State that holds the record, if such use is related to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.”

Seems like many businesses could loophole around the opt-out with point 3 if they say they’re updating or verifying your contact information (because you intentionally gave them bad information). Insurers (extended warranties probably fall into this category), tow service operators, and dealers (for recalls or “market research” in the sense of “researching who to market to” maybe?) don’t care about opt-out.

Given the list of exceptions, it seems DPPA is a waste of paper.

Oh, and on top of all that, anyone who gets the information can resell it–except cases 11 and 12.

If Texas didn’t include an opt-out option, I think there may be a case for someone claiming federal law trumps state law–that is, the handful of people who aren’t SOL from the 12 other exceptions that don’t require opt-out, of which someone would have to file a lawsuit.

Ninja (profile) says:

Well, that is one way to deal with an influx of unsolicited mail after registering your vehicle to comply with state law.

All Texans should print a copy of every advertising e-mail and get all their regular mail spams and forward back to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Should yield interesting results with piles of paper and huge waste disposal fees 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“All Texans should print a copy of every advertising e-mail and get all their regular mail spams and forward back to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Should yield interesting results with piles of paper and huge waste disposal fees ;)”

Muahaha. Awesome idea. Consider this one Texan who plans on doing that. As soon as I receive any that is. I’m surprisingly resilient when it comes to maintaining my anonymity, to the point that even the state agencies give up when it comes to trying to track me down (except for law enforcement obviously… which I never have any run-ins with luckily enough).

Tail Gunner says:

At some point...

If the information is knowingly going to be exploited, then the information entered will start to be lies, or not registered at all.

This is insidious corruption.
Purposely enabled by oath breaking officials.

You can play word games with what I accuse here, but it won’t make me hate these fascist treasonous scumbag oath breakers, or whatever you want to call them, any less.

The OATH is indeed the crux of what is causing all this.

Why just in the past couple days I run across these, and I hear about this stuff happening ALL the time.

Cynthia McKinney US lawmakers forced to sign support of Israel – youtube.com/watch?v=MeVBa4lSscw

Sen Lindsey Graham Hammers Chuck Hagel over Jewish Lobby comments – youtube.com/watch?v=l1xSY-g0Ghk

Jewish Lobby Crushes Chuck Hagel – youtube.com/watch?v=IvIE-ZE6DB0

THE PLEDGE ( TO ISRAEL ) – youtube.com/watch?v=-syB3JQkhFQ

Somewhere out there I found a Jewish ritual to un-bind all other oaths they take.

Before falsely labeling me the anti-Semitic (for your grassroots propaganda purposes), know that one of my grandmother’s was Jewish. IF anything this insanity is backwards, (poor ol Jews aren’t being persecuted, they’re doing the KILLING NOW) so before flaming me please explain in detail just exactly where did the vulgar slang word “goy” came from?

Also explain in detail, why our officials who swear an oath to the US Constitution, are swearing oaths to Israel, and in fact BREAKING their oath to the US Constitution?

Why should we wait.
It has begun.

Goldie (profile) says:

Personal information is PERSONAL

I don’t appreciate my personal information being sold without my permission. In fact, they won’t get my permission. Sad, the systems are hackable because I already had my identity stolen twice through government hacked systems. It’s total B.S. I called the company that bought my info (who even had my name wrong) and got off their list. You’d think he was a debt collector the way he treated me by interrupting and playing childish word games to make me feel guilty for not protecting my 15 yr old privately purchased car (I KNOW they won’t cover any car over 120K miles, so why was he even bothering?). He sarcastically said, “So you’re going to fix your own car and don’t care enough to have it protected???” Seriously? The guy was a total voluntary manipulative ass (100% indication of lower intelligence) to me. I told him to F*** off…LOUDLY, 3x! They imposed on my life, not the other way around. Why should I respect any of that unwanted, unwarrented invasion of MY PRIVACY? It’s out of control by the nuts who want control over others. This whole government and media crap is a racket against the privacy of individuals and their preferences and freedoms. And exposes everyone to scams and identity theft. Yes, these companies are scams because they are not cost effective.
I wish the people leaving comments would stay on issue here.

Goldie (profile) says:


TEXAS IS covered for privacy….sadly, they leave all of us nescient about this law by not informing us that we do have a choice to opt out of bulk marketing. Even the writer of this article failed to point this out. I am now waiting for the TXDMV legal department to call me back about WHY we are not allowed to have that option, when the law accounts for us to have that option.
See: Drivers Privacy Protection Act
18 U.S.C. § 2721 et. seq.
(Public Law 103-322)
Section 2721, paragraph (12) (B)
the information will be used, rented, or sold solely for bulk distribution for surveys, marketing, and solicitations, and that surveys, marketing, and solicitations will not be directed at those individuals who have requested in a timely fashion that they not be directed at them.

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