Florida’s Practices Respect Driver Privacy
CONTACT: Robert Sanchez
Public Information Administrator
March 14, 2003
Thousands of Floridians have received an e-mail erroneously claiming that “a new law” allows the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to sell motorists’ personal data, including Social Security numbers, medical information, photos, and phone numbers. On Friday, the Department issued the following statement to set the record straight:
There is no “new law” regarding the use of data in the Department’s records. The laws governing those practices have been in place for decades. They reflect Florida’s long tradition of
"Government in the Sunshine,” which allows access to public records. In 1994, Congress passed the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), and in 1997 the Florida Legislature passed a state version (Sections 1 and 6, Chapter 97-185, Laws of Florida, effective 9/13/97.) It codified privacy protections for Florida motorists. The only recent change in this area is a 1999 law signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. It increased drivers’ privacy by rescinding a 1998 law allowing an exception to the state’s long-standing prohibition against the sale of driver license photos.
Moreover, contrary to the e-mail’s inference, the general public does not have access to the portions of driver records or motor vehicle records that include medical information or Social Security numbers. Neither does the Department release driver license photos to anyone except to law enforcement agencies for them to use for official purposes only. Nor does the Department keep records of its customers’ telephone numbers.
Recognizing the public’s privacy concerns, the Department took steps months ago to better accommodate those motorists who wish to block access to other personal information, including their address. As part of the process of obtaining or renewing a driver license, ID card, or vehicle registration, for instance, each customer has an opportunity to block such information from public view. In addition, the Department’s Website, www.flhsmv.gov, lets motorists go on-line and block access to such personal information.
What remains a public record, however, is the motorist’s driving history, including infractions, suspensions, and revocations. Moreover, Florida law does allow certain exempt entities to obtain information necessary to carry out legitimate activities. Auto manufacturers, for instance, need access to the current mailing addresses of their vehicles’ owners in order to send out recall notices that are vital to maintaining highway safety. However, Florida’s public records law strictly regulates who may obtain such information and how they may use it.
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