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Lawmakers Concerned About Public Data At The Texas Department Of Motor Vehicles

Texas State Capitol in Austin.
Nicolas Henderson/Flickr
Texas State Capitol in Austin.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles sparked some frustration among lawmakers Tuesday when speaking about constituent data at the Senate Finance Committee.

In testifying, Whitney Brewster, director of the state DMV, received questions from lawmakers about a security breach with Vertafore last November that led to a change in practices at the agency.

KUT’s Andrew Weber initially reported how 22.7 million Texans had their drivers license information compromised as a result of the breach.

“We do not and did not have a contract for sharing data with Vertafore,” said Brewster. “Vertafore acquired a company called QuickQuotes, which was under contract with us where we provided information to that entity.”

After the company was acquired, the services that QuickQuotes provided were suspended, but the data, which dated back to 2018, remained in the hands of Vertafore. The data included people’s name, address, vehicle, vehicle registration and lienholder data.

Since then, Brewster stated that the DMV was working with both state and federal agencies, like the FBI, to resolve the issues behind the breach.

“At this point, we have been told through the investigation that there is no evidence of misuse of the data, however, consumers should know that all of this information is on our website, on how they can protect themselves related to the Vertafore breach,” said Brewster.

People affected by the breach can also file a complaint to the Texas Attorney General’s Office on their website as well.

Some lawmakers, like Sen. Charles Perry (R- Lubbock) asked for reforming the contracting system already in place. “We need to have several things in our contracts. First of all we need assignments, so we know whoever we are contracting with was assigned by default from the process.”

In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a bill which allowed the department to sell constituent information to companies to garner funding. Some of those companies include data-mining companies, banks, government agencies, motor companies and even private investigators.

Today at the committee hearing, they reported making over $2 million in 2020 by doing this.

The department asked for a total of $36.6 million dollars in funding this legislative session to fund an increased data security, infrastructure, and the wanting to make e-titling for the DMV’s regulated community easier.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Copyright 2021 KERA

Haya Panjwani