DMVs Making Millions Selling Your Private Personal Data

As if Americans couldn’t be any angrier with the Department of Motor Vehicles, along comes this story. I finally bit the bullet last week and took an entire day off work. Not because I was doing something fun like fishing, playing with my kids or going on a second honeymoon. No, I had to take a full day off work because I was forced to renew my driver’s license.

The experience was worse than it’s ever been in my 30+ years of driving, not only because of the trip to the DMV but because of what’s been happening to me ever since I went to the DMV. You should know about this because what happened to me will very likely happen to you after your next forced visit to the most hated government agency in America.

I was even super-prepared for my DMV visit this time. I not only took the day off work but also spent an hour the night before filling out paperwork online in hopes of shortening my “visit” with the DMV.

When I arrived early in the morning, I had to stand in the first line, which is the line where you inform the DMV that you are at the DMV. It seems like there should be a more efficient way of doing that, but that’s not how the DMV operates. At the end of this line, I informed the DMV that I was at the DMV. The cheerful (and by “cheerful” I mean “soulless, rude and utterly devoid of human empathy”) DMV employee assigned me a number and told me to go stand in the green line. The various lines are color-coded to make it more efficient for illegal aliens who don’t speak English, presumably.

After waiting in the green line, the cheerful DMV clerk there informed me that I was in the wrong line. Driver license renewals are supposed to be in the orange line. Duh!

After waiting in the orange line for another hour, I was finally able to give that cheerful DMV clerk my confirmation number from the DMV website, proving that I had filled out all the necessary paperwork ahead of time and thus shortening my visit.

“Lo siento!” declared the Spanish-only clerk. When I made it clear to her that I didn’t speak Spanish, she had to tell an English-speaking translator to vamanos his way over and explain to me that the DMV website was not communicating with the DMV computers that day, so I needed to go stand in the blue line. I was informed that if I stood in the blue line, I would be able to fill out the same paperwork that I had already filled out, but this time on one of their speedy in-office computers.

It went on like this all day. The red line for fingerprinting, the magenta line for handing over proof-of-residency documents, the purple line for getting my photograph taken. At the end of the day, they gave me a paper “temporary proof of license” and informed me it would take at least 10 days to mail my actual driver license to me, due to the backlog. At least I had survived the process.

Before I even made it home from the DMV, my cell phone started ringing off the hook. Phone calls and text messages were coming in – and they haven’t stopped yet. I’ve received offers for life insurance, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance even though I live in a desert community, 20% off on the price of a new chainsaw with no money down, deals on pest control, pills to increase my masculine potency, airline tickets, Dish TV deals, home security systems, LASIK surgery, and the list goes on and on.

The DMV sold my cell phone number.

We are forced to give the DMV all our personal information in order to get a driver’s license, and then the DMV is turning around and selling that information for profit. And it’s not just my personal info – it’s everyone’s. Lo and behold, Motherboard magazine has issued a report on how DMV offices in all 50 states are now raking in millions of dollars every year, by selling information that we thought was being kept private by a government agency.

According to Motherboard, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles made $77 million last year just through selling the personal information of motorists to third parties. The Wisconsin DMV raised $17 million this way and the Rhode Island DMV raked in $384,000. The Virginia DMV sold its entire driver database to 109 separate private detective agencies and bounty hunter businesses. And phone spammers are obviously buying our phone numbers from the DMV.

Congress passed a law in 1994 that prohibits the DMV from selling your personal data to third parties. The law passed over public outrage after a stalker murdered a Hollywood actress. He obtained her home address by paying a private detective agency $250. But now the DMV has gone back to selling our private data to anyone who offers to buy it.

What is the US Congress doing about this? Nothing, of course.