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State probes possible misuse of confidential driver’s license info

The investigation follows a disclosure involving Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
A sample Florida driver's license [Tampa Bay Times]
A sample Florida driver's license [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jun. 15, 2018
Updated Jun. 15, 2018

State law enforcement authorities said Friday they are investigating the possible criminal misuse of confidential driver license data in a case involving a high-ranking state official.

"FDLE is investigating possible improper use of personal identifying information. Our case is active," spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. "Tallahassee Regional Operations Center is investigating."

The announcement follows a report last month by Florida Politics that Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis was unaware that his driver's license had been suspended for nearly a year because of a change in his auto insurance carrier.

Federal law protects various personal identifying information on driver's licenses from public disclosure, including a motorist's Social Security number and state-issued driver license number.

The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on May 24 revoked a memorandum of understanding with a Miami vendor, Unisoft Communications, which operated a website,

The state said the website made it too easy to obtain information that was protected by the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).

The website required only a motorists' driver license number, and nothing else, to gain access to a Florida motorist's driving history.

"By only requiring a driver license number, someone other than themselves could easily obtain DPPA-protected information," the agency wrote to Unisoft.

In an effort to get back in the state's good graces, Unisoft President Hugo Montiel Jr. wrote to the agency on May 25 that it had taken down the site

Montiel Jr. did not respond to a Times/Herald request for comment.

Executive Director Terry Rhodes of the highway safety agency issued a statement: "The department is absolutely committed to protecting customers' personal identifying information and continues to take all necessary steps to ensure customer safety and security are maintained."

READ MORE: New Florida driver's licenses — and new security features

Patronis' office issued a statement Friday that described the breach as a case of identity theft in which he was the victim.

"We are pleased to hear that the recent identity theft that targeted driving records of CFO Jimmy Patronis is being criminally investigated," Patronis' statement said. "Our department is working with all those who are investigating this matter to provide any information they may need."

The highway safety agency said Friday: "The department has not experienced a widespread data breach; rather, we received an inquiry that a record had potentially been improperly obtained."