ChoicePoint Wants Your Motor Vehicle Records

choicepoint2.jpgFrom the LA Times:

In recent months [ChoicePoint] has been meeting with officials of the California Department of Motor Vehicles in an effort to add the state’s nearly 30 million vehicle registration records to its existing database of 19 billion nuggets of personal information — a hoard that is already the biggest in the industry.

ChoicePoint says it requested the DMV records for a client, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That suggests it may ask the state to waive the normal fee of 10 cents per record, or about $3 million. By state law, government agencies can access DMV records for free.

The article has some interesting facts about ChoicePoint’s prior accessing of DMV records from other states:

The company’s handling of motor vehicle records hasn’t inspired confidence, either. In 2000, Pennsylvania terminated ChoicePoint’s access to its drivers’ license records and fined the company nearly $1.4 million because some records had been sold to unauthorized purchasers. ChoicePoint, characteristically, blamed one of its own customers for violating its rules. Pennsylvania authorities reinstated the contract a year later, with stringent conditions, because the company so dominated the business of providing motorist data to insurance companies that the insurers could barely function without it.

Along with several other data brokers, ChoicePoint has been accused in Florida of violating the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act by selling motor vehicle records to marketers and other inappropriate buyers. (The act was designed to keep burglars and stalkers from obtaining motorists’ home addresses based on license plates they spotted on the road.) A request for class-action certification is pending in federal court.

Why does the Department of Homeland Security want ChoicePoint to gather DMV records? According to the article:

Its real purpose in seeking the records remains murky. ChoicePoint refused to discuss its negotiations, other than to confirm that its client is the Department of Homeland Security. Staff members there were unable to identify the relevant contract for me. Then ChoicePoint, which holds about $50 million in contracts from a wide range of federal agencies, acknowledged that although Homeland Security was seeking the California records, it wasn’t actually the contracting agency. Instead, it was utilizing an umbrella contract through which ChoicePoint services something called FedLink. This seems to be an information access program for the government, operated by the Library of Congress.

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