ACLU to supporters: E-mail Gov. Scott and we'll (symbolically) 'buy back' your privacy
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida asked supporters to e-mail Gov. Rick Scott out of protest over the state's long-standing practice of selling Floridians' driving records for millions of dollars.
For every e-mail asking Scott to end the practice, the ACLU will offer 1 cent -- the cost of a "penny record" sold by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles -- to the state. The ACLU claims 2,000 people have already taken the group up on the symbolic offer.
"While the policy nets the state tens of millions of dollars every year, it puts every Florida driver at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud," states the website.
UPDATED: Scott spokesman Lane Wright called the ACLU's e-mail campaign "a transparent ploy to get media attention."
"Federal law requires the state to deliver the information to those who qualify," Wright said. "Since we have to follow the law, that really leaves us with only two options: Pass the costs on to the taxpayer, or save the taxpayer money by charging one penny per record to those who ask for the information. We’ll take the side of the taxpayer every time."
Florida reaped $73 million in sales from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, according to this Times/Herald report. Most of that total comes from sales of electronic driver transcripts that contain records of citations and crashes for $8 or $10. Sales of penny records, which are electronic files sold to data-mining firms containing basic personal information, were significantly less at about $340,000.
The department sells the information to companies that meet exemptions under federal driver privacy law. Those include towing companies, bus lines that want driving histories of prospective employees and auto manufacturers that need to reach customers about product recalls.
Here's the sample letter from the ACLU:
Message: Stop the State from Selling Personally-Identifiable Information
Dear Governor Scott
I am writing to urge you to stop the the state from selling the personal information of Florida drivers to private data mining companies without their knowledge or permission.
All Floridians, including drivers, have an expectation of privacy. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is selling personally-identifiable information without notice or permission, violating that expectation.
I find it very troubling that the state regards the personal information of its citizens as a commodity that may be sold. Even more troubling is the fact that the state offers drivers no way to opt-out of the sale of their data.
Since the corporations that buy this personal data may re-sell it, the personal information of millions of Florida drivers is made available to third party purchasers with no official oversight.
I believe that my privacy is worth more than a penny and that as governor, you should protect the privacy of Floridians rather than sell it away to data mining firms.
You have the authority to take immediate action to protect the privacy of Floridians.
I ask you to immediately direct Julie L. Jones, Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, to discontinue the mass sale of personal driver license information.
[City, State ZIP]