RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – On any given day, the public gives out personal information to a multitude of state agencies.
But one department can take that information and sell it to others.
And it’s 100 percent legal.
We’ve all been there. Standing in line waiting to renew a license or get a new plate.
The waiting is almost as fun as the pile of paperwork that needs to be filled out. The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles keeps all of that paperwork in its records.
Pam Guptill, NCDMV records manager, said everything from the make and model of your vehicle to your phone number and address are kept on record.
It’s simple but personal information that’s for your eyes only, right? Not necessarily.
The NCDMV can actually sell it.
Guptill could not give an exact number when asked how many records are sold.
“Oh my heavens, I wouldn’t be able to guess,” Guptill said. “Thousands.”
But a driver’s personal information is federally protected.
It’s a law rightly named the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.
But check closely and you’ll see there are exemptions. Fourteen to be exact.
“In order to get data, you have to qualify through one of those exemptions,” said Guptill.
She said the NCDMV has a screening process.
“They have to determine what are they going to do with the records and how are they going to use the records,” she explained.
Police departments, attorneys, employers, insurance companies, and even private investigators can all get a person’s information.
The state racks in millions of dollars doing it.
“It’s a slight money maker,” said Guptill.
WNCN Investigates compiled bulk record sales and found the NCDMV has made more than $4.5 million selling records over the last four years. That money goes to the state highway fund.
WNCN Investigates asked Guptill if personal information could be leaked by the DMV through how the system is set up.
“I would hope not, no sir,” she said.
One exemption in the DPPA allows your information to be bought for surveys or marketing but state law says only if you’ve given the DMV express written consent to release it.
RELATED: Read the statute here
So who is buying your records?
WNCN Investigates pulled the purchasers list and found city governments, insurance and research companies, and even a few local businesses.
And for the most part it’s self-regulated.
“Who’s making sure that these companies aren’t using [data] in an incorrect way?” WNCN Investigates asked Guptill.
“If someone is concerned then of course we look into the matter,” said Guptill.
In some cases, the release of personal information is required, as a matter of public safety.
For example, when a car manufacturer gets your records to issue recall notices.
Other companies can decide what it will do with it once the information is obtained.
“We do it the very best we can,” said Guptill. “And as far as I know, it has not failed us.”