Departments of Motor Vehicles in states around the country are taking drivers' personal information and selling it to thousands of businesses, including private investigators who spy on people for a profit, Motherboard has learned. DMVs sell the data for an array of approved purposes, such as to insurance or tow companies, but some of them have sold to more nefarious businesses as well. Multiple states have made tens of millions of dollars a year selling data.
Motherboard has obtained hundreds of pages of documents from DMVs through public records requests that lay out the practice. Members of the public may not be aware that when they provide their name, address, and in some cases other personal information to the DMV for the purposes of getting a driver's license or registering a vehicle, the DMV often then turns around and offers that information for sale.
Many of the private investigators that DMVs have sold data to explicitly advertise that they will surveil spouses to see if they're cheating.
"You need to learn what they’ve been doing, when they’ve been doing it, who they’ve been doing it with and how long it has been going on. You need to see proof with your own eyes," reads the website of Integrity Investigations, one private investigator firm that buys data from DMVs.
"Under this MOU [memorandum of understanding], the Requesting Party will be provided, via remote electronic means, information pertaining to driver licenses and vehicles, including personal information authorized to be released," one agreement between a DMV and its clients reads.
A small section of a document from the Virginia DMV showing which private investigators the DMV has data selling agreements with. Image: Screenshot.
Multiple DMVs stressed to Motherboard that they do not sell the photographs from citizens' driver licenses or social security numbers.
Some of the data access is done in bulk, while other arrangements allow a c...