Are State Agencies Selling Our Private Information?

A recent report revealed some shocking and disturbing news regarding personal data collected and how it is being used. It would actually be more accurate to say how our personal information is being used and sold for profit by many state agencies.

When was the last time you were at the DMV? Remember giving that agent behind the counter those personal documents? Your full legal name, dob, height, weight, eye color, etc., as the computer registered all your data.

Did you ever think, even for a moment, that this information would be used… for profit?

According to one recent story, that is precisely what is happening. You don’t have to read that again. We didn’t say, telemarketers, those gas-saving smooth-talking script-reading kiosk representatives or some bogus online charity. We are talking about state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The story reports that a company called Motherboard studied and tracked records and came up with some astonishing numbers. How about $17 million in profits for the state of Wisconsin alone.

How about tens of millions of dollars overall and thousands of businesses buying these records. Many of those businesses and those buying records, the story said, are private investigators.

Doesn’t this somehow seem, unethical or at the very least make you uncomfortable? The question is (okay, there is obviously more than one), does that uneasy feeling come from the fact that they are selling our information or that it is so hush-hush?

And let’s not forget, just to add salt to the wound, that this isn’t a voluntary act we partake in. This is the law. We are required to hand over our personal information.

Now, how comfortable do you feel about that? Hang on though because the best is yet to come. Even as ethically wrong as this seems, it is not an illegal act. The aforementioned story points out that “the sale of the information is legal under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994.”

What is really ironic is that this same ‘Privacy Protection Act’ was created as our story goes on to report, “…after a private detective was hired by a stalker to find the address of actress Rebecca Schaeffer just before he murdered her.”

No, we didn’t make that up! And don’t forget, just for the icing on the cake, who it is that is buying many of these records.

One more thing before you forget about this story because this couldn’t affect you, right? A little research into the source story revealed that in some cases, these records are being sold for pennies, literally.

We will let you do the math but tens of millions of dollars means a whole lot of pennies. And these aren’t just pennies, these are records. This is personal information and massive quantities of it.

Most of us aren’t trying to hide any nefarious or illegal activity but that doesn’t mean we want our personal information to be available to everyone in the world either. In many cases, as it appears right now, it is.

Major tech players in the information world such as Google and Facebook among others have been scrutinized and questioned about their handling of personal information. But we aren’t forced to give them anything.

The President is on a mission, and succeeding, at making America a better, stronger and safer nation. Maybe it is time for him to do some indoor cleaning now too?

Where is this money going, these millions of dollars? Who is running these sales and how is this process being regulated? How are these profits for these state-run agencies being spent?

There are definitely more questions than answers. It should be noted that based on the reports, not every state is involved in this practice. The state of California, for example, does not participate in the sale of personal information or DMV records.

Agencies such as law enforcement or insurance companies seeking information on who they choose to insure (and not insure) are expected to have certain access to information.

That isn’t what concerns most of us. What we want to know is who else is willing to pay to get information about us and why is this an acceptable practice?