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Driver Record Data Fight Draws In Lawmakers

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota state lawmakers are trying to slow down a plan from the Department of Public Safety that would restrict public access to driver’s license data, including the bulk sale of data to insurance companies and car dealers.

DPS officials say they made the change after thousands of snooping incidents into personal driver’s license records.

But insurance industry executives, and Insurance Federation of Minnesota Vice President Mark Kulda, say it could add money to your insurance bill.

“There could be $20 or $25 in lookup fees that are going to end up being filtered into your premiums,” Kulda said.

About 15 companies now pay flat rates for daily downloads of the driver and vehicle records. It gives them access to more than 7.7 million vehicle records and 6.5 million license records, even if they need only a fraction of them to conduct business.

Pat McCormack, who heads the division that has custody of the records, says a substitute subscription service is being developed that will allow the agency to keep better tabs on where the data is going, but full details aren’t yet known.

The state is raising the lookup fee from 75 cents to $5, and allowing lookups only during business hours Monday through Saturday – no nights and no Sundays.

“People shop for insurance on nights, on weekends. They buy it on their cellphones. It’s so easy to buy auto insurance, and this new proposal from the department is going to make it very difficult to buy auto insurance in Minnesota,” Kulda said.

Mary Ellison, deputy commissioner of DPS, says the new driver’s license policy will go into effect May 12, unless the legislature passes a bill to stop it.

“We intend to proceed with what we have proposed, until or unless the legislature directs us and the governor signs a bill that says you will continue to sell this in bulk,” she said. “And when people call and complain, we can continue to tell them the legislature has directed us to continue to sell this in bulk.”

There have been numerous reports in recent years of state government employees looking up private driver’s license data, thousands of times.

But insurance industry execs tell WCCO there are no security breaches by companies trying to set rates and sell policies.

The DPS says the average fee for driver’s license data in the U.S. is $10-per record, and Minnesota would be joining 19 other states that do not provide driver’s license data in bulk.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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