WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling on the federal government to investigate the state of Florida’s practice of selling residents’ personal information to private companies.
It's a practice that the state denies is happening.
Nelson, D-Florida, made the request in a letter sent Friday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The move comes after reports that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has sold the personal information of more than 15 million licensed Florida drivers to at least 75 companies in the last two years and was paid more than $150 million for the information.
“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson wrote.
Nelson is asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether the State of Florida is violating a decades-old federal law that prohibits private companies from accessing an individual’s driving record for marketing purposes without their express consent.
The law, known as the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, was passed by Congress in 1994 to respond to growing concerns about states’ use of the personal information contained in the millions of drivers records kept on file.
While the law does allow states to sell a driver’s information for some limited purposes, including statistical analysis, it forbids the sale of this information for marketing purposes without an individual’s express consent.
Attorney Randy Reep said that when drivers goes into the DMV to get a license, they are essentially signing a contract to give their information to be able to drive in Florida.
“They can sell information if you fall into a certain category of people,” Reep explained. “There's a number of examples, but if you're an auto manufacturer that's trying to do a recall, one of the best ways to do that is trying to get drivers information on those cars.”
DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes released a statement Friday denying the claims that the state has improperly sold driver information:
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) does not sell driver or motor vehicle information. Driver or motor vehicle information is produced as required by the Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and Florida’s public records laws.
The Florida DHSMV said it follows all laws regarding driver information. For more information, go to https://www.flhsmv.gov/privacy-statement/record-production-fact-sheet.