Make us your home page

A surefire state revenue generator? Selling your driving records

TALLAHASSEE — While sluggish sales tax receipts may have forced the state to slash government spending again this year, one source of revenue continues to pay out:

Your name, address and driving history.

The state of Florida made $73 million from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, by selling drivers license information to private companies, according to new information released by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The selling of personal information of Florida's 15.5 million licensed drivers has been on the books for decades, state officials say, and is common practice across the country. And if the state didn't sell it, Florida would have to give it away for free, because the information is a public record.

But the transaction has become the target of at least one group, who wants the process discontinued.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is urging Gov. Rick Scott to terminate the agency's contracts with vendors who receive driver information. In a letter Friday, executive director Howard Simon asked Scott to end the practice because Simon says it lacks oversight and violates Floridians' expectation of privacy.

"As governor, you should protect our personal information, not sell it," Simon said. "Just because the state can do something does not mean the state should do it."

Scott's office did not return a call seeking comment.

Who buys the information?

Auto manufacturers that need to tell customers about product recalls. Or insurance companies that ask for customers' driver records for underwriting purposes. Or towing companies that need to get in touch with the owners of abandoned or towed vehicles. And bus lines and school board leaders that want histories of drivers who operate their vehicles.

"The other option would be to provide it for free," said Courtney Heidelberg, the agency's spokeswoman. "It's a public record. We have to provide this information to the requestor."

Most of the profits come from selling electronic driver transcripts that contain records of citations and crashes. At $8 or $10 a record, the sales add up.

A small chunk also comes from selling "penny records," which are electronic files sold to data-mining firms like LexisNexis, ShadowSoft and Acxiom Information Security Services for 1 cent per record. Those records do not contain driver histories but do provide basic information like a driver's license number.

The agency does not release Social Security numbers or drivers' photographs, Heidelberg said. And it's against the law for businesses to use the information for marketing.

Law enforcement officers, child protection investigators, firefighters, judges, prosecutors and public defenders are among the public officials who can block their records from being sold.

The sales netted $73 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, up $10 million from the year prior and more than double the agency's profits from preceding years.

The increase is largely the result of the Legislature raising the cost of obtaining driver transcripts, from $2 to $8 for three-year histories and $3 to $10 for complete histories.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Reach Katie Sanders at (850) 224-7263 or

A surefire state revenue generator? Selling your driving records 07/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 25, 2011 10:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who's best global airline? Qatar Airways takes No. 1 spot but Delta tops U.S. carriers


    The good news? Delta Airlines tops all U.S. airlines in a new Skytrax global airline passenger satisfaction survey of the world's best airlines. The bad news? At No. 32, Delta still ranks behind dozens of Middle East, Asian and some European airlines. For Tampa International Airport and the major airlines that operate …

    Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Tampa International Airport, improved its customer satisfaction rating among global airlines in a recent survey.
[Times file photo]
  2. Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment and part of that plan calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

    The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. The Vinoy wants to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots. But the Vinoy needs St. Petersburg voters to approve the project in a November referendum. This is an artists' rendering of the new garage from the street. [Courtesy of Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club]
  3. House committee passes Florida-sponsored flood insurance bill


    The House Financial Services Committee pushed through a Florida-sponsored bill intended to cut flood insurance costs. If passed, the bipartisan bill would help create a marketplace for private flood insurance.

    A House committee passed a Florida-sponsored bill meant to lower flood insurance rates.
[Times file photo]
  4. 3 new restaurants open: Deccan Spice Indian food, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen, the Cake Shop

    Food & Dining


    Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen …

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.
  5. The driver who died in a Tesla crash in Florida using Autopilot ignored 7 safety warnings


    When Joshua Brown's Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world's first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.

    Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. A crash in Florida showed that the driver was warned to keep his hands on the steering wheel.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TXTG101