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Months-Long Investigation Uncovers Potential Consumer Data Misuse in Florida

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Tampa, FLWhile there are various federal laws in place designed to protect the privacy of the consumer, including misuse of phone numbers and contact information, an exhaustive investigation by electronic journalists in the state of Florida has uncovered a practice whereby private driver records are vended to various companies in exchange for payment to generate revenue. The result: consumers are inundated with marketing ploys. It only adds to the frustration already generated by nuisance calls.

One consumer who is also an attorney, interviewed by Fox 13 Tampa (11/01/16) for the story, claimed that within a week of purchasing, and registering a vehicle with the state department of motor vehicles, he began receiving unwanted marketing mailers at his home.

Consumers have the law on their side: with few exceptions, marketers are not allowed to undertake marketing ploys such as robocalls or illegal telemarketing calls without first securing written permission from the consumer that such overtures are okay.

And then there’s the federal Driver Privacy Protect Act (DPPA), which restricts the sharing of records and contact information according to a tight set of criteria. Agencies, such as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), are required to meet strict guidelines before sharing any information with anybody, in an effort to quell illegal robocalls and other aspects of unwanted marketing.

And yet, according to Fox 13 the DHSMV for the state of Florida has dropped the ball on the required careful vetting of companies and organizations to which the agency shares federally-protected driver records.

According to the Fox 13 investigation, which took four months to complete, spokespersons with the Florida DHSMV repeatedly claimed throughout the investigation that anyone to whom the state agency was vending driver information met all criteria and was “heavily vetted.”

However, journalists kept pressing, and in the end the DHSMV was forced to admit that the only actual check the agency performs when a company, or third party requests to purchase driver information, is to verify the requestor has a registered business name with the state.

Attorneys to whom Fox 13 spoke confirmed that the registration of a business name does not include the kind of activity a business conducts, or the type of service it provides. The requester, it seems, also doesn’t have to reveal how the requester plans to use the information, beyond making a declaration by penalty of perjury that the information will be used for purposes allowed under the federal DPPA.

And apparently, according to Fox 13 the state generally doesn’t ask.

According to the Fox 13 report, the DHSMV for the state of Florida conducted bulk sales of driver information to 75 companies and entities over the past two years. That’s 15.5 million licensed drivers associated with some 18 million registered vehicles in the state. It was also revealed in the investigation that updated data is transmitted to most of the buyers periodically.

For this, the state earned $150 million in revenue over the past two years.

It was revealed that among the buyers of driver data from the state of Florida are major companies such as Acxiom and Experian. But there are other, smaller companies – a few of which, while maintaining a registered business name in the state of Florida do not maintain a website, do not have storefronts, and cannot be contacted (at least, when Fox 13 tried to reach out).

The investigation further revealed that some of the companies to which the Florida DHSMV sold driver data are embroiled in class action robocall lawsuits for various allegations of misuse of driver data purchased not just from Florida, but from other states as well.

The end result: a financial windfall for the state, and a headache for the consumer who receives no compensation or benefit.

Brandon Robinson is an attorney with Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg. He started receiving similar direct marketing ads after he recently bought and registered a car.

“It had to have been through the state records,” he said. “Within a week? I mean, no one else could get the information that fast.”

The DPPA specifically prohibits use of driver data for marketing purposes.

It is not known if those entities to which the Florida DHSMV sells its driver data, in turn, resells said data to others.

“I firmly believe the state really needs to take a more proactive approach in screening these people, verifying why they’re using the information and that they’re using the information for the proper purposes,” Robinson told Fox 13 Tampa.

While states such as Florida continue to collect revenue from bulk sales of driver data, the only recourse for the consumer inundated with marketing mailers, junk mail and illegal telemarketing calls is to file a nuisance call lawsuit.


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Posted by

I too have received numerous marketing materials, and calls from agencies wanting to extend my vehicle warranty, within a week of purchasing my vehicle. For the first few months it was none stop. The calls are still coming in, but not as bad as before. Please include me in this

Posted by

I've been getting nuisance calls for months now. The caller keeps calling me & I have asked him to stop. He's left voicemail threatening me & I am really tired of it.


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