Bill to focus on, but not ban, BMV selling personal data
Lawmakers are using a bill intended to connect veterans with their earned benefits to also focus on data sales by Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles — but didn’t go as far as some would’ve liked.
The House approved the legislation unanimously Tuesday.
The BMV made $25 million last year alone by selling Hoosiers’ personal information, according to an investigation from WRTV — and a whopping $237 million over the last decade. That data includes names, addresses, past addresses, car makes and models, license plate numbers and more.
Senate Bill 290 originally tasked the BMV with disclosing some personal information — included on applications for several veterans-related license plate designs — to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The entire idea behind this legislation is so that Indiana can find out where our veterans are,” the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Randall Frye said on the floor Tuesday. “We can contact them and let them know the benefits they’ve earned as our heroes.”
Frye said Veterans Affairs would be able to contact plate buyers to thank them for their purchases and send information about the military relief fund in addition to veterans benefits help.
The bill blocks the use of the data for any other purpose and allows veterans to opt out.
On the data sales issue, lawmakers moved for greater transparency by accepting an amendment in committee last week. The measure requires the BMV to annually report data sales revenue and specific plans for its spending to the state’s budget committee. Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, was the author.
But the Republican-dominated House sidestepped another Porter amendment broadening data protections on technical grounds Monday. The proposal would’ve blocked the BMV from selling any Hoosier’s data to any third parties without consent.
“I thought we valued personal privacy in this state, but apparently House Republicans don’t agree with me,” Porter said in a statement Monday. “The BMV has made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in the past decade from selling personal information to third parties without consent. That is simply not okay.”
“My amendment would have stopped this practice and forced the BMV to obtain customers’ consent before selling their information,” Porter continued. “This is a common-sense consumer protection step – but Republicans elected to not even take a vote on this critical matter.”
Porter struck a more conciliatory tone on the floor Tuesday, but asked that lawmakers take the topic up again next year.
Lawmakers approved the bill 97-0.
Despite the BMV’s profits off data sales, its leaders have previously testified that expenses are going up — thanks to a federally mandated transition to more secure identification cards, an expensive operating system update and pay boosts (to $15 hourly) meant to retain more employees.
The BMV has blamed staff shortages and lower foot traffic for numerous branch closures since 2019, drawing public outcry from residents who live far from the next-nearest facility.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.