The threat to DMV lists grows

In early October, the House and the Senate approved a $49.5 billion transportation appropriations bill containing a provision that forbids state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) from selling the names of motorists for marketing purposes unless the motorists have opted in – in other words, expressly given the DMVs permission to sell their names. At press time, this privacy protection portion of the bill was set to take effect in June 2000.

For catalogers, DMV lists would become “virtually useless from a marketing standpoint,” says Richard Barton, senior vice president, congressional affairs for the Direct Marketing Association. “Not enough people will ever opt in to make DMV lists very useful.”

But Barton adds that direct marketers won’t go down without a fight. The bill conflicts with the opt-out provision of the landmark Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), and he hopes to push to get the language in the bill changed to be consistent with the DPPA. “A court case could solve the problem, leading to further legislation that would change it to an opt-out, rather than an opt-in.” With an opt-out, a DMV would be able to sell the names of motorists unless those motorists expressly requested otherwise.

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