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How the DVLA Sells Your Personal Details

It has emerged that the DVLA has made almost £22 million over the last four years by selling motorists' personal details to a number of parking-enforcement companies.

Facebook has just announced changes to their user agreement, and they have come in for much criticism about the way they handle their users' data. Privacy concerns surround not just who can see that data or how Facebook tracks its users, but also how Facebook has the copyright to any content posted on the platform and can also sell those rights to third parties. Some people are concerned about a big company selling on our details, but surely we can trust our government, those who regulate the likes of Facebook, to keep the details we give them secure?
 
Perhaps not. It has emerged that the DVLA has made almost £22 million over the last four years by selling motorists' personal details to a number of parking-enforcement companies. The amount of cash being raked in by the agency has been increasing every year, with some £7.3 million due to be made in this year alone. The information being sold by the DVLA includes motorists' vehicle details and also their names and addresses. In 2013 the DVLA made £6 million from such data sales, a steep rise from £2.9 million in 2011. 
 
The firms who buy the data pay £2.50 for every driver record. This means that they have access to the personal information of almost nine million UK drivers. The number of companies who have bought this data from the DVLA has soared to 31, and some of these have come in for serious criticism from drivers and organisations over their sometimes dubious business practices. 
 
The DVLA's largest customer for this data is a firm called Parking Eye. This company has spent in excess of £7 million since 2011. The company came to the public's attention in 2014 after losing a court case where they were attempting to defend their fining of a driver who was circling a car park in his car while looking for a parking space. 
 
Excel Parking is another DVLA client, and they have spent a total of £1.1 million acquiring motorists' details. This company featured on the BBC's Watchdog programme after they ignored a court judgement on the validity of their signs. 
 
Another parking firm, Observices, pleaded guilty in court to misleading motorists and it, along with one of the company's directors, was fined. The company has since spent £66,000 with the DVLA buying drivers' details. 
 
These details have been revealed following the submission of a successful freedom of information request. The DVLA has issued a response to the release of the figures, which says that the agency does not profit from such sales. The statement went on to say that any monies that are gathered are calculated only to recover the administration costs of providing the data. The level of fees set means that there is no cost to the agency or to the taxpayer. The DVLA denied that these actions breached the UK's data protection laws and argued that landowners needed to be able to enforce their rights and would have substantial difficulty in doing so if they did not have access to this data. This, they said, could result in drivers parking illegally on private property with little danger of any fines being imposed. 
 
The DVLA went on to say that where it was alleged that a parking contract was being breached, it would be considered reasonable for the DVLA to release the details of the vehicle's keeper so that the landowner could be in a position to pursue their legal rights. 
 
The DVLA continued to argue that if it did not comply with such requests for motorists' details, the rights of landowners would be disregarded and there would be little prospect of offenders being held to account for allegedly illegal parking. The agency's statement concluded that it has robust procedures in place to assess those companies accessing its data. These include checking the company's data protection registration, a probation period and continuous audits to monitor its customers' use of DVLA data. 

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