Attorney general wants to stop state from selling license info

| Friday, January 06, 2006

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch wants his state to stop selling the private driver’s license information of its residents. And he’s not alone.

Hatch, along with state Sen. Ann Rest, D-New Hope, and state Rep. Jim Davnie, D-Minneapolis, held a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 4, to urge the state to do something about the practice.

The three called upon the Legislature to order the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to quit selling the information to commercial companies. In addition, they announced a proposed law that would restrict the commercial distribution of driver’s license information.

Under the proposed law, the DPS would be prohibited from distributing driver’s license data in bulk quantity – unless it was to a government agency – without the express written consent of the license holder.

In particular, the trio was concerned about the sale of license information – including name, address, height, weight and license number – to private companies and Web sites such as publicdata.com, according to a news release.

Jack Talbot, a detective with the South Lake, MN, Police Department, said at the conference that publicdata.com is a known tool used by identity thieves. The Web site offers data on residents from nine states and is planning on adding more to the list.

“I find driver’s license printouts from publicdata.com when executing a large number of search warrants on identity thieves and financial scam artists,” Talbot said.

In 1997, the federal government banned states from selling driver’s data, but a federal judge overturned that law in 1998, ruling that federal law could not determine how states classify their own data.

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