For Sale - The True cost of purchasing Drivers' Details in the USA
The purchase of 650,000 names and addresses from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles landed a US Bank in trouble with the courts last month to the tune of $50 million.
The Fidelity Bank & Trust bought the personal data of 656,000 individuals living in a number of Florida counties for direct marketing purposes, namely for car loan solicitations. According to documents disclosed in court the data in question was purchased for a mere $5,656.
At present there is no comprehensive all-encompassing law at federal level in the US which governs the collection, use and disclosure of consumer's personal data. Instead, focus in the US has tended to be on data security issues, most notably the disposal of consumer information. It is at state level where most developments have taken place in this area, most notably with California's Data Security law. This has influenced the adoption of similar legislative control in other states of the USA, albeit on a rather piecemeal basis.
However, the acquisition of the data in this case contravened industry specific federal legislation, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act.
Historically drivers' personal data had been used by criminals to locate and target individuals with high value cars. The Act started life at state level in California and prompted the federal law relied upon here.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC") filed a "friend of the court" brief in favour of the plaintiff against The Fidelity Bank & Trust and argued that the penalties provided for in the 1993 Act creates an incentive for states and private entities to preserve the privacy of drivers' data. The EPIC vows to continue to support claims to ensure that relevant laws in the US are effective. It will be interesting to see how state legislation continues to influence the federal legal framework in this area. We will continue to report on developments and similar cases.
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