The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is to be investigated by the information watchdog after releasing a record number of drivers’ personal details in 2018.
The Times reports that 23m drivers had their personal information handed over by the agency (DVLA) to third parties, including private investigators and bailiffs, often so they could chase outstanding parking fines.
It is also claimed that the DVLA charged for access in 7.8m of these cases, meaning it could have made £19.5m by doing so. Public sector organisations can access the data for free, but private companies must pay £2.50 to cover administrative costs. It is feared that not all the information was obtained legally or used properly.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it was looking into the practice, particularly following the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced across Europe last year.
The watchdog said it was “considering if and how new data protection laws affect this data sharing”. If the DVLA is found to have breached rules governing GDPR, it could be fined millions.
The agency maintained that it had undertaken “comprehensive preparations in readiness” for GDPR’s introduction.
However, Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “It is absolutely astonishing. At a time when there are so many sensitivities around data, it just seems baffling that any old Tom, Dick or Harry can get hold of this data.”
Meanwhile, RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding warned that the DVLA needed to do more to reassure motorists that their information was “only released to those with a legitimate interest in it and that these companies and agencies use this information appropriately”.