The information on your driver’s license is a gold mine and Pennsylvania is cashing in. The NBC10 Investigators found the state has earned more than $157 million since 2010 selling driver records.
An NBC10 analysis of the more than 32,000 private companies and government agencies to which PennDOT sold driver information traced it to every state in the country.
The companies include credit agencies, insurance companies and car dealerships. The information PennDOT sold includes names, addresses, and driving histories.
"The state should not be doing this unless they can control it," Pennsylvania driver Albert Lopez said. "It doesn’t belong to whoever runs PennDOT. That information is mine."
Lopez’s phone number and address are unlisted. He pays for ad blockers and browser protection software. But, somehow, he says solicitors found him. He says they weren’t able to when he lived in other states. He attributes it to when he applied for a Pennsylvania driver’s license.
"I don’t know why specifically an individual business on a particular case would need access to a particular record," PennDOT deputy secretary Kurt Myers said.
Myers said companies sign contracts with PennDOT agreeing to use driver information for legal reasons, including background checks. Myers said he was unaware of any solicitation or identity theft related to the sale of Pennsylvania driver records.
However, the NBC10 Investigators learned it is unlikely PennDOT would be aware if information was misused. The state has only checked to see how one company used driver records since 2010. The audit of Sterling Info. System discovered "inadequate security," "inadequate controls over the use of personal information" and found the company "was reselling PennDOT driver records."
“Their access to information was immediately taken away based upon the audit,” Myers said. “They still to this day don’t have access to records.”
In a prepared statement Sterling Info. Systems said, “These types of audits are typical and part of the ordinary course of business. Due to the ongoing nature of the audit, Sterling cannot comment further at this time.”
Not every state sells driver records. Delaware only shares the information with law enforcement.
“We consider their information their information and it shouldn’t be spread,” Mike Williams with the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles said.
Public records in New Jersey show the state sold its driver’s records to more than 1,500 companies.
"There’s always risk whenever information is being exchanged,” Tiffany George with the Federal Trade Commission said. “Giving them notice and allowing them to opt out gives them a chance to take themselves out of the information loop.”
In Pennsylvania drivers are not given the chance to opt out. PennDOT has planned to audit other companies buying driver information. Governor Wolf’s office said auditors have been added to PennDOT’s staff.