DVLA selling drivers' personal details to firms run by crooks
The information commissioner has pledged to investigate whether the actions of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are in breach of data protection laws.
It was revealed that the agency supplies the names and home addresses of those with driving licences to 157 firms presently on its list - some of which are run by convicted criminals.
One clamping company on the list is run by two individuals found guilty earlier this year of extorting thousands of pounds from motorists.
Each firm on the list has an electronic link to the DVLA's database, at a cost of 3,000. Individual requests for information can also be made by other groups for 2.50 a time.
All companies need to do to get names and home addresses of any motorists is tap in a vehicle registration number, and all the details then appear.
Critics said the news undermined the government's reassurances that information contained on proposed identity cards would not be abused.
Last night, Janet Rafferty, a spokeswoman for the office of the information commissioner, said: "We are looking into this issue. We'll speak to all the parties involved and see on what basis they are using the information, and whether they have reasonable cause to use it.
"We always try to solve these issues without the use of legal action. Usually negotiation brings the appropriate result."
But Scottish solicitor-advocate John Scott, chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said: "This is a perfect example of why we've expressed concerns about the use of other databases storing personal data - such as for ID cards.
"The more information that is held in databases, the more likelihood there is of abuses like this happening."
He said the DVLA could face legal action for breach of data protection laws from any individuals affected.
"It certainly seems there are inadequate safeguards at the DVLA and they really need to sort out their own procedures or they could face a prosecution," Mr Scott said.
The DVLA's chief executive, Clive Bennett, told a Sunday newspaper the agency "have a duty to supply this information". The Department for Transport (DfT), which runs the DVLA, says it is obliged by law to release information from the vehicle record to anyone who can show "reasonable cause" to have it.
A DfT spokesman said: "If the agency is not satisfied that the company or individual meets the reasonable cause requirements, access to the information is withheld.
"The DVLA has no evidence that information it releases for the specific purposes demonstrated is being abused.
"If there are allegations that information supplied by the DVLA has been misused then the DVLA will investigate such claims."