Washington, D.C. –
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a driver’s license agency sold information about drivers such as home address, name, and age.
Several states including Florida have been selling DMV records, either under the cloak of freedom of information or to help support the state’s falling revenues.
In this case, the justices agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal from three South Carolinians who objected to solicitations from lawyers to join a lawsuit against car dealers. Among the lawyers named in the Supreme Court appeal is Richard Harpootlian, who also is chairman of the South Carolina Democratic party.
At issue is whether lawyers may use information gleaned from South Carolina driver records, which they obtained by filing open records requests. A federal law aimed at protecting driver records has an exception for lawsuits and the court will determine whether the lawyers’ actions qualify.
In Florida, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court and held that individuals suing to recover for violations under the Drivers Privacy Protection Act do not need to demonstrate actual harm in order to recover monetary damages. In the case, a Florida man sued Fidelity Bank for obtaining the personal information of 565,000 individuals from the State’s motor vehicle databases for junk mail purposes. EPIC’s brief in the case argued that monetary damages were necessary in order to deter unaccountable data brokers from obtaining personal information from government coffers. For more information, see EPIC’s Kehoe v. Fidelity and Doe v. Chao Pages. (Aug. 26, 2005)
Also, EPIC, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, has submitted an amicus brief in Kehoe v. Fidelity Bank, a case under the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act where a bank purchased over 500,000 motor vehicle records from Florida for junk mail solicitations. The brief argues that individuals are entitled to damages under the law when businesses or data brokers intentionally access motor vehicle information. For more information, see EPIC’s Kehoe v. Fidelity Page. (Sept. 1, 2004)
So far, Florida has sold more than 3 million names and addresses to marketing companies and data-mining companies such as Lexis Nexis which often produce reports about you without your knowledge or ability to contest the accuracy of the information and is used for background check by Insurance companies when handling claims, and by employers who are considering hiring you.