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How Information is Protected or Disclosed

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How Information is Protected or Disclosed

When the DMV collects personal information from you, state law (Civil Code section 1798.17) requires the DMV to notify you about the principal purpose(s) for which that information is to be used and any known or foreseeable disclosures which may be made of the information collected where the disclosure of such information to a governmental entity is either necessary for it to perform its duties or is required by law. For example, the DMV provides the notice on your Driver License/Identification (DL/ID) Card Application.

Laws that Protect or Require the Release of DMV Information

There are numerous laws that govern how DMV information is protected or disclosed. DMV complies with the Information Practices Act of 1977, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and the Vehicle Code.

Under the Information Practices Act of 1977 (IPA), an agency shall not disclose any personal information in a way that would link the information to the individual to whom it pertains, with certain exceptions (Civil Code 1798.24).

Additionally, the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) requires all States to protect the privacy of personal information contained in a person’s motor vehicle record.

Under the Information Practices Act, “personal information” is information that “identifies or describes an individual, including, but not limited to, his or her name, social security number, physical description, home address, home telephone number, education, financial matters, and medical or employment history.” Under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, “personal information” is information that identifies an individual, including an individual’s photograph, social security number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5-digit zip code), telephone number, and medical or disability information. Information regarding official government actions relating to a person’s driving privilege, such as records of convictions, driving violations, accidents, driver’s status, driver license suspensions, and revocations of the driving privilege, are open to public inspection under Vehicle Code section 1808 and are not a driver’s “personal information.”

There may also be other California laws and Vehicle Code statutes that protect specific types of information.

However, there are a number of exceptions to the laws that protect your personal information. For example, a person’s public driving record contains some personal information (your name, date of birth, driver’s license number, and physical description), but may be disclosed under various circumstances under the DPPA and Vehicle Code, such as to any federal, state or local agency in carrying out its functions.

  • Authorized law enforcement agencies may access driver record information as part of an ongoing investigation. However, the databases available to law enforcement do not indicate under what CVC section a DL was issued, nor do they include any of the identification documents used to obtain a DL.

The DPPA limits the use of a person's motor vehicle record to certain purposes. These purposes are listed in Title 18, United States Code (USC), Section 2721, and include:

  • Carrying out government agency functions, including courts and law enforcement.
  • Use in matters of motor vehicle safety, theft, emissions, product recalls.
  • Motor vehicle market research and surveys.
  • Legitimate business needs in transactions initiated by the individual to verify the accuracy of personal information.
  • Use in connection with a civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding.
  • Research activities and statistical reports, so long as the personal information is not redisclosed or used to contact individuals.
  • Insurance activities.

Specific Types of Information in DMV Records

Below are the applicable laws that govern how specific types of information is protected or disclosed:

  • Physical or Medical information is confidential pursuant to California Vehicle Code (Veh. Code) Section 1808.5 and is not disclosed outside of the department, unless authorized by the person or by law (DMV vs. Superior Court (Carmona), 100 Cal. App. 4th 363).  
  • Residence Address in any record of the department is confidential pursuant to Veh. Code Section 1808.21, and is not disclosed outside of the department, except as authorized under the following:
    • courts, law enforcement, and other government entities (Veh. Code 1808.21)
    • financial institutions, insurance companies, and attorneys in a case that directly involves the use of a motor vehicle (Veh. Code 1808.22)
    • vehicle manufacturers or its agents for safety, warranty, emissions, or product recall purposes; vehicle dealers or it agents to complete a registration transaction; utility companies for identifying where an electric vehicle is registered; and statistical purposes (Veh. Code 1808.23)
    • accredited, degree-granting, nonprofit independent institution of higher education with a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement for the sole purpose of parking enforcement (Veh. Code 1808.25)
  • Telephone Number is collected on your application in order to communicate with you regarding your DL/ID or Vehicle Registration application. DMV does not share your telephone number outside of the department except as authorized by law.
  • Driver License Number, when combined with a person’s name, is protected by State law (Civil Code 1798.29).
  • Photographs are protected under Veh. Code 12800.5 and may be released by DMV only to the following:   
    • Attorney general, district attorneys, and law enforcement agencies
    • Public defenders and public defender investigators
    • Individuals requesting a copy of their own photograph
    • An individual who has a written authorization from the individual whose photograph is requested
    • In response to a subpoena which specifically requests the photograph
    • A member of the immediate family after verification of death from the coroner’s office located in the county where the death occurred
  • Fingerprints, including thumbprint, are collected by DMV for added security to your driver license information and protected under Veh. Code 1808.5 and the California Supreme Court’s decision in Perkey v. DMV (1986) 42 Cal.3d 185. Your fingerprints are not shared outside of the department, unless authorized by law.
  • Test Results including Vision Test, Written Test, and Drive Test are authorized to be collected by DMV under Veh. Code Section 12804.9.  
  • Information regarding official government actions relating to a person’s driving privilege, such as records of convictions, accidents, driver license suspensions, and revocations of the driving privilege, are open to public inspection under Vehicle Code section 1808 and are not a driver’s “personal information.”
  • Accident reports and supplemental reports are for confidential use of the DMV and the Department of the California Highway Patrol pursuant to Veh. Code 20012, except that the following shall be disclosed from the reports upon request: the names and addresses of persons involved in the accident; the registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles involved in the accident; the date, time, and location of the accident; any suspension action taken by the department; the names and addresses of insurers.
    • Pursuant to Veh. Code 16005, the specified information may be given to any person having a proper interest in the information, including:
      • The driver or drivers involved, or the employer, parent, or legal guardian thereof.
      • The authorized representative of any person involved in the accident.
      • Any person injured in the accident.
      • The owners of vehicles or property damaged in the accident.
      • Any law enforcement agency.
      • Any court of competent jurisdiction.
  • Information regarding any motor vehicle liability insurance policy or surety bond provided to the department pursuant to Section 4000.37 or provided electronically is confidential under Veh. Code 1808.24 and is not shared, except to the following:
    • A court of competent jurisdiction.
    • A law enforcement or other governmental agency.
    • An insurance company or its assigns to verify a record the company or its assigns previously submitted to the department.
    • A person whose vehicle or property has been involved in an accident reported to the department, or who suffered bodily injury or death in an accident reported to the department, or the person's authorized representative, employer, parent, or legal guardian.
  • Insurance information contained in reports and supplemental reports are for the confidential use by the department and any other state department requiring such information pursuant to Veh. Code 16005, but upon request the department will disclose from the reports the names and addresses of persons involved in the accident; the registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles involved in the accident; the date, time, and location of the accident; any suspension action taken by the department; and the names and addresses of insurers to any person having a proper interest therein, including:
    • The driver or drivers involved, or the employer, parent, or legal guardian thereof.
    • The authorized representative of any person involved in the accident.
    • Any person injured in the accident.
    • The owners of vehicles or property damaged in the accident.
    • Any law enforcement agency.
    • Any court of competent jurisdiction.
  • Social Security Numbers (SSN) are collected pursuant to Title 42, USC, Section 405, and Veh. Code Sections 1653.5, 12800, and 12801. If you are eligible for an SSN, you are required by law to provide it on your DL/ID application or your application will be denied.
  • DMV verifies your SSN, name, and birth date on your records with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  You will not be issued or able to renew your DL/ID until the SSA verifies the information you provided is correct.  You authorize and consent to a search of any and all databases at SSA to verify the information you provide on your DL/ID application.
  • Some government agencies may have statutory authority to share taxpayer information with DMV for the purpose of collecting a delinquent state tax obligation.  Failure to pay the tax may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.  In addition, DMV is authorized to respond to requests for information from:  
    • The Franchise Tax Board for tax administration purposes.  
    • Any agency operating pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Part A or Part D of Subchapter IV of Chapter 7 (commencing at Section 601 et seq.) for the purpose of collecting money owed in connection with the programs for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Child Support/Establishment of Paternity.  
  • Voter Registration information is collected by the department and not made available to the general public. However, if eligible, your voter registration information is provided to the Secretary of State for the purpose of voter registration.

Government and Commercial Requesters

Vehicle Code Sections 1810 and 1810.2 allow government and commercial requesters who have been issued a requester code by the department to obtain DMV public record information for a governmental or legitimate business use without notifying you.
For example:  

  • Other State departments request information for legitimate government purposes:
    • Board of Equalization may request information to resolve delinquent taxes.
    • California Teachers’ Retirement System may request information to obtain correct contact information for retirees.
    • Department of Public Health may request information for inquiries pertaining to deceased individuals.
    • Department of Real Estate may request information for the purpose of enforcing real estate law.
    • Employment Development Department may request information for legitimate business needs such as processing state disability insurance.
    • Franchise Tax Board may request information to resolve delinquent taxes.
    • Child Support Services may request information to locate parents who owe child support and to validate the driver license number.
  • Courts and law enforcement agencies may request information for civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral processing.
  • Financial institutions licensed by the state or federal government to do business in California may request information for purposes such as preventing fraud.
  • Insurance companies licensed to do business in California may request information to obtain information on an accident with their insured.
  • Attorneys may request address information to obtain information related to a client in a criminal or civil action which directly involves the use of a motor vehicle or vessel.
  • Other program areas within DMV may request information to create potential lists of jurors for counties.
  • Prospective employers participating in the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program may request information for motor vehicle and driver safety purposes.
  • Vehicle manufacturers or their agents licensed to do business in California may request address information for purposes related to vehicle safety, warranty, emission, or product recall.
  • A dealer or his/her agent licensed to do business in California may request address information for completing registration transactions and documents.
  • Any individual who specifies that no person will be contacted by mail or otherwise may request address information for statistical research and reporting purposes.
  • A legal owner of a vehicle or vessel may request information for the purpose of obtaining information regarding the current registration status of the vehicle including the license plate number and address of the registered owner of the vehicle.
  • A lienholder may request information for notifying all persons having an interest in the vehicle which will be offered at lien sale.
  • A person in lawful possession of private property may request information to notify the registered and legal owner that the vehicle has been moved to the nearest public garage.

Databases

DMV information may be used or shared through a number of databases or systems, as authorized by law:

  • Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS)
    • The Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) is a nationwide computer system that enables state driver licensing agencies to ensure that each commercial driver has only one driver’s license and one complete driver record. State driver licensing agencies use CDLIS to complete various procedures, including:
      • Transmitting out-of-state convictions and withdrawals
      • Transferring the driver record when a commercial driver's license holder moves to another state
      • Responding to requests for driver status and history
  • CDLIS was established under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 and is based on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations Sections 383 and 384.
  • National Driving Registry (NDR)
    • The National Driving Registry (NDR) is a computerized database of information about drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, or who have been convicted of serious traffic violations such as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. State motor vehicle agencies provide NDR with the names of individuals who have lost their privileges or who have been convicted of a serious traffic violation.
    • DMV checks for driving record status in other jurisdictions through the National Driver Registry prior to issuance of a California driver license.  You will not be issued a California driver license if another jurisdiction has withdrawn your driving privilege.  
  • Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS)
    • The Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS) is a system that allows jurisdictions and other organizations to search the National Driver Registry (NDR) data. Based on information received as a result of an NDR search, PDPS "points" the inquiring jurisdiction to the State of Record (SOR), where an individual's driver status and history information is stored. Based on the information received from the SOR, the issuing state decides if the applicant is eligible to receive a new or renewed driver license.
    • PDPS is developed and maintained by the National Driver Register organization, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Personal Information Collected from Credit/Debit Card Transactions

DMV uses a credit/debit card processing company to process credit/debit card transactions for services, and does not retain, share, store or use personal information for any other purpose except pursuant to a search warrant, subpoena, court order, or investigation of a crime. For making payments using our site, you must provide your name as printed on your credit/debit card, as well as your card type, card number, expiry date, security code, and zip code. DMV uses industry standard safeguards to protect the financial information we collect.

Privacy Policy

For more information, visit DMV's Privacy Policy page.

Questions

For questions, contact:  
    
Department of Motor Vehicles  
ATTN: Chief Privacy Officer  M/S F127  
PO Box 932328  
Sacramento, CA  94232-3280 

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