Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division told the Arizona Mirror it does not sell data it stores to third parties including private investigators, although PIs and companies can make requests for some data – and more than 762,000 people made such requests in the past year.
As first reported by Motherboard, the departments of motor vehicles in several states have been selling driver data in bulk to private investigators, allowing those states to rake in millions of dollars.
In Arizona, a little more than 762,000 requests for driver license records were made to the motor vehicle division from Sept. 10, 2018, to Sept. 10, 2019, according to Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Nick. The requests brought in more than $2.3 million for the agency.
The bulk of those requests are from people requesting their own records, Nick said, though the agency was unable to provide the Mirror with data on how many were in that category. ADOT also could not say how many requests were from PIs, as the agency doesn’t store that information in its database, even though it requires licensed investigators to provide their license number.
Nick said ADOT does not actively sell data belonging to Arizona residents to third parties, but does make it available to request per state and federal law.
The information ADOT is allowed to release is regulated by the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which is commonly referred to as the DPPA.
The law was passed in 1994, in the midst of anti-abortion advocates using public driver license databases to track down and harass doctors, nurses and other employees who worked for practices that performed abortions.
The law outlines several types of “permissible use” for requesting data from the MVD, which can include information such as a person’s full name, address, driver’s license photo, social security number, license number and some medical information.
The form one must fill out to get the information also shows which types of people can get this type of data: government agencies, attorneys working a case, insurers, employers, researchers, tow companies and private investigators.
Fees for the records range between $3 to $5.
There are some safeguards in place to ensure that not just anyone can get the information.
For example, in order to obtain the records, requestors must have either the person’s full name and driver’s license number or their VIN, license plate and full name. Additionally, requestors have to prove they qualify to receive the records under of of the “permissible uses” allowed by state and federal law.
However, obtaining someone’s full name once you have a VIN number is a pretty easy task considering the free online services that are now available to consumers.
Private investigators in the state must have two permissible uses, unless they are working for an attorney on a civil or criminal case.
In Arizona, private investigators are regulated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and must have “a minimum of three years of full-time investigative experience or the equivalent of three years of full-time investigative experience that consists of actual work performed as an investigator for a private concern, for the federal government or for a state, county or municipal government.”