AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles made more than $3 million in 2019 selling drivers’ personal information.
The information sold includes drivers’ names, physical addresses, phone numbers, emails, and vehicle identification information.
The Texas DMV sold the information to more than 2,700 government agencies and private companies, according to DMV records obtained by CBS 11 I-Team.
Some Texas cities bought the DMV data to help track down parking violators.
Likewise, toll companies purchased the information to catch toll violators.
Car dealerships, insurance companies, banks and tow companies bought it to verify vehicle ownership.
Also on list of buyers were school districts, major corporations, and private investigators from across the country.
It is less clear as to why they wanted drivers’ information.
The Texas DMV does not disclose to drivers on registration applications that their personal information might be sold to a third party but the state agency said it vets every potential buyer to ensure they are not abusing drivers’ information.
“The DMV takes privacy of information very seriously,” said Jeremiah Kuntz, the Texas DMV director of vehicle registration. “We do everything we can to ensure that information is protected.”
Companies wanting to purchase data from the DMV must go through an application process which includes companies stating how they plan to use the information. The DMV does not allow companies to use drivers’ information for marketing or solicitation.
“When we find a company misusing the information, we take administrative action to terminate their contracts or cut them off or take other administrative actions to make sure that misuse does not continue,” said Kuntz.
In the past ten years, only eight companies have been caught misusing drivers’ information.
The Texas DMV insists generating extra revenue is not the reason the agency sells drivers’ information. Kuntz said the amount of money the DMV makes from selling the information is not significant to the department’s overall budget.
“Providing information to government and business entities provides a public benefit,” explained Kuntz. “If you were a vehicle owner and your vehicle was towed, you would want to know as soon as possible where your vehicle was towed. It provides those business entities the ability to contract you.”
Since the Texas DMV does not allow companies to use drivers’ information for marketing purposes, federal law does not require the DMV to receive drivers’ consent or provide drivers with a way to opt out.