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DVLA data for sale

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:55 pm on 1 December, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance.
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Samizdata have higlighted the following article from The Times, about the DVLA’s selling of information about drivers to all sorts of businesses:

What is happening is this: requests come in from businesses that have relevance to parking — clampers, car park managers, even a financial services company that happens to have a car park in which, notionally, people might leave their cars without permission. The DVLA charges a few thousand pounds for a link to its database, and thereafter the commercial company has only to tap in any registration number to be sent the owner’s name and address. If crooked, it could collect car numbers from anywhere in the country, enter them and thereafter know when you are away from home. Or it could send you threatening letters, of extortion or blackmail, citing your car details and claiming a violation.

But the DVLA wouldn’t deal with such people, would it? Yep. It does. It has been forced to hand over its list of the 157 companies registered to buy personal information about drivers — the list includes bailiffs, debt collection agencies and financial services companies. DVLA bleats that it is obliged — under an undebated Statutory Instrument of 2002 — to sell the information to anyone with “reasonable cause”. Well, almost anyone can claim that a car might park in their space. Thus a credit company, which bombards us all with mailshots offering loans, is on the list because it’s got a company car park. Nor does DVLA check that it is not selling the list to people with criminal records: it deals with Aquarius Security — clampers whose management were found guilty of blackmail at Bristol Crown Court and given prison sentences. One of them was already on an ASBO after being accused of driving his truck into a 60-year-old man, breaking his knee. They clamped one young woman’s car in the middle of a three-point turn. But the DVLA saw nothing wrong in selling that company addresses for £2.50 each so that they could find other citizens to harass.

Other people who can get your address just by noting down your registration number include a car park management company, which without issuing tickets or reproofs sends bills for £170 to people it has secretly photographed overstaying the free limit in supermarket car parks, and another which notoriously forced an Olympic athlete to pay £335 to retrieve a clamped car in Swindon.

This situation illustrates an important point.

We cannot trust the government with our personal data.

Therefore we should minimise the data the government collects on us to only that which is necessary for it to carry out its functions, and it should be illegal for the government to use this data for purposes other than those for which it was collected or to share it with others, without our consent.

The police should only be allowed to get hold of such data, for the purposes of criminal investigation, only if they get a warrant from a judge and only if the person concerned is subsequently informed about it once the investigation is over or once charges are brought against that person.

Unfortunately the government has been reducing the barriers to the sharing of personal data, and is recording more and more data about us.

A final point regarding the identity cards bill. The government has been trying to sell the use of the national identity register to businesses, e.g. see:

Given the DVLA’s selling of information to businesses and the govt’s desire for businesses to make use of the ID cards and national identity register, can we trust the data held on the NIR not to find its way into the hands of advertisers, crooks and others who’d abuse it?

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