It sounds terrible. A news story from Portland television station KATU that aired Monday, Jan. 8, reported the Oregon DMV collected $11.5 million by selling driver license information to a variety of companies between July 2018 and July 2019, a tiny fraction of the Department of Transportation’s $4.1 billion in state revenues during the 2017-19 biennium.
Don’t fret, though. The agency “sold” only information state law says some businesses and others are entitled to, and the fees it charged were calculated to cover the cost of providing the information sought, according to David House of ODOT.
The state doesn’t sell information to just anyone. You can’t call up the DMV and get personal information about your neighbor, for example. What you can do is find out if a neighbor is licensed to drive, information that’s useful if you’re concerned about his or her ability to drive safely.
License information cannot be sold for marketing purposes, and if it’s used that way the buyer can be barred from getting further information from DMV. Nor can just anyone buy license information. Social Security numbers, for example, can be given only to other government agencies. Telephone numbers don’t go to anyone — DMV doesn’t even store them, House says.
Insurance companies are entitled to information for a variety of uses, including for investigation of claims, in anti-fraud efforts and in underwriting. Researchers, too, can collect information for research into health and safety questions and for statistical reports. They cannot publish private information and they’re barred from contacting anyone about whom they have information.
Law enforcement is entitled to information, as are the courts, and only those groups can get information in real time.
In other words, DMV doesn’t turn your personal information over to just anyone, and, in fact, Oregon law prohibits it from doing so. Nor does it get rich fulfilling public records requests. Its fees are designed to cover the cost of filling requests, and that’s all.