WTVT Tampa Report Prompts Senator's Call for Action

An investigation by WTVT, the Fox O&O in Tampa, has prompted Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to call for a federal investigation into the state’s selling of drivers' personal information.

“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson said in a letter to attorney general Loretta Lynch.

The state could be violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which was passed in 1994 to protect personal information after the actress Rebecca Schaeffer was killed by an obsessed fan who tracked her down through her driver registration records, Nelson wrote. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the state of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state to keep their information safe.”

According to WTVT's four-month investigation, the Florida highway safety and motor vehicles department sells private records in bulk to more than 75 companies without knowing how they use the information.

In the past two years, Florida raised $150 million from selling the personal information it has about its 15.5 million licensed drivers, the station found. Data that is transmitted to most of the buyers on a periodic basis.

The motor vehicle department said it “heavily vets" the companies wanting data to make sure they have one of the federally approved reasons to access data under the law, WTVT said. However, the investigation found the background checks primarily consist of confirming companies have active state business registrations, the station said.