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Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a United States federal law designed to protect the personal identifiable information (PII) of licensed drivers from improper use or disclosure. Congress passed the DPPA in 1994 in response to complaints that state agencies were selling drivers’ information to direct marketing and auto insurance companies to augment revenue.

The DPPA requires all states to safeguard the privacy of personal information in an individual's motor vehicle record, including the driver's name, address, phone number, Social Security number, driver identification number, photograph, height, weight, gender, age, certain medical or disability information and, in some states, fingerprints. The DPPA makes it illegal to obtain driver information for unlawful purposes or to make false representations to obtain such information. Under the law, criminal fines can be levied for non-compliance and individuals have a private right of action, including actual and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees. 

Under the DPPA, drivers’ personal information may be obtained from motor vehicle departments for certain uses, including:

  • Legitimate government agency functions
  • Matters of auto safety, theft, emissions and product recalls
  • Insurance purposes
  • Notices for towed or impounded cars
  • Use by licensed investigators or security services
  • Use by private toll transportation facilities
  • Motor vehicle not-for-profit market research and surveys

Drivers’ information is also available in response to requests for individuals’ records if the state has received permission from the individual. Records of each additional disclosure must be kept identifying each person or entity that is receiving the disclosure and for what purpose, and the disclosure records must be retained for five years. The legislation does not protect information a driver's traffic violations, license status or accidents.

Many states have laws to supplement the DPPA. Whether DPPA applies to records of vehicles owned by corporations, proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability partnerships, associations, estates, lienholders or trusts varies by state.

This was last updated in October 2017

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