State of Alabama DMV Selling your personal info, FOX News invest - FOX10 News | WALA

State of Alabama DMV Selling your personal info, FOX News investigation finds

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State of Alabama DMV: Selling You Out. Photo: FOX10 News State of Alabama DMV: Selling You Out. Photo: FOX10 News
MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

For just pennies, your state government is selling some of your Department of Motor Vehicle information.

When you apply for a drivers license in Alabama, the information you put on the application form can be sold to two companies. FOX10 News has learned because of exemptions to a federal law which was passed to protect you, some of your DMV information may now be in the hands of several data information companies.   
 
The form number is DL-28, information for Alabama driver license application.

You must provide your name, address and phone number.

But there are also blocks for your date of birth, race, sex, weight and height information.

The state also wants your eye and hair color and occupation. 

The information on this Department of Motor Vehicle application is what some data marketing companies could use to contact you, one privacy attorney tells us.            
 
"The DMV data is basically (what) I call the holy grail of all marketing data," said privacy attorney Joseph Malley of Dallas, Texas. "Most states sell the motor vehicle records, about 37 of the states."
 
Malley has filed several class action lawsuits and sued more than 400 companies that buy state motor vehicle records.

Called a privacy crusader, his privacy case success over the last 15 years includes settlement from Facebook totaling more than $9 million. 

We spoke with Malley by Skype.
 
"I would say that in Alabama anyone receiving a letter with their name address and make, model, year of their vehicle, which basically says that your car warranty is expiring, then I would say with a 95-percent surety your state is selling that data to sources that are then reselling it," said Malley.
 
Many of us have received those vehicle warranty letters or letters from a dealership offering to buy back your vehicle. You may have also received phone calls, texts or emails.
 
We spoke with people in the parking lot of an Alabama Department of Motor Vehicle office.  We wanted to know their thoughts about the selling of DMV information.
 
"I thought at the beginning wow, what a great thing that somebody is able to inform me and then immediately hey, you have a dangerous part on your car, but yet they're selling my information without my permission and that is not OK," said Nick Vines.
 
"I dislike anybody selling my information at all, and yet, it goes on with just about every credit card you own or just about anything else that you do, but yes, we do get unwanted solicitations constantly by phone and by email," said Janet Nicholls.  
 
So, we wanted to know how do the data information companies get your Department of Motor Vehicle information. We made several requests to the Alabama Department of Revenue for an interview about the selling of your DMV information.
 
In a phone conversation with FOX10 News, Mike Gamble, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Revenue, said, "The state does sell some of the driver's license information to two companies, Experian and R.L. Polk."
 
Polk's consumer information services division is owned by Equifax. It was purchased by the data company in 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
 
Gamble said, "The information is only released after meeting requirements from the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, DPPA,  passed by Congress in 1994." 
 
Gamble told FOX10 News,  "The release of approved DMV information has been going on for 15 to 20 years."
 
The privacy attorney Malley shared an email with us from Jay Starling, director of the Alabama Department of Revenue's Motor Vehicle Division. In the email, Starling said, "That's more than 25 million Alabama DMV records."

Starling also stated in the email, "The companies must purchase the entire database and registration database. They are sold for $22 per thousand records.
 
The amount of money earned and what information is released to these companies were not released by state officials.
 
Instead, in an email to FOX10 News,  a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Revenue, said, "Any further information requested by us must be submitted via an open records request form."
 
Malley told us he believes Alabama is making more than a million dollars a year selling the data to Experian and R.L. Polk.
 
"Keep in mind governments are not in the business of making money," Malley said. "However, if you can set up a system where you can sell data, then its very hard to stop a state.  (In) Florida, I believe the numbers are where they are making $72 (million) to $75 million a year, which appears to be one-third of their budget." 
 
Alabama drivers that we talked to wanted to know how to stop it.
 
"You feel betrayed," said Kenny Nelson. "I mean, it's supposed to be a state office. There should be some way to stop that."
 
There are more than a dozen exemptions to the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act.

Malley said, "The exemptions, unfortunately, allow access to your DMV record."
 
We contacted three of our local state legislators.  They each had different levels of awareness regarding a state agency was selling your DMV record.

Alabama State Rep. Napoleon Bracy has had a personal experience.
 
"We've been contacted about a car we haven't had for about five years, and we've received phone calls on our cell phones," Bracey said. "We've received information in the mail about someone wanting to buy this car back, and we continuously tell them month to month we don't have this car anymore. But they still continue to call, and now I understand where this information is coming from and how these people got our personal information in the first place."
 
Attorney Malley said there is one way to stop it.
 
"Go to the Department of Motor Vehicle," Malley explained. "They have, under the DPPA, the ability to ask for a five-year check. The state of Alabama can request from the two parties that are obtaining the database that they provide to the state of Alabama a list of any party that is actually purchasing that data. Obviously, if you were to see that you would then see the marketing companies that are then buying from these parties."

He added, "That would pretty much shut down the access by these marketing companies, better than what you have right now."
 
Bracy believes your state government should help you protect your privacy.
 
"Since we've started this conversation I've contacted Montgomery and hopefully we can begin the process of creating an opt-out box for these forms," Bracy said. "I think people deserve the right to be able to keep that information private.".
 
FOX10 News was told there are exemptions for one group in Alabama. 

John Bennett, deputy chief of staff and communications director for the Alabama Secretary of State, tells FOX10 News in an email that victims of domestic violence "is the only group that can request that their information be withheld, per state law."  
 
We did contact both Experian and Equifax for our report.  But, we have not gotten a response back to our information request.
 

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