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Minn. DPS Delays New Privacy Policy as Lawmakers Call for Legislative Hearings

Updated: 02/14/2014 11:29 AM
Created: 02/13/2014 7:30 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was the first to report on a major change at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety that could increase your car insurance premiums and prevent some drivers from getting safety recall notices. Now, the state is postponing the new policy, as some lawmakers demand answers and call for legislative hearings on the issue.

This is actually the second time the state has postponed the policy change -- the original implementation date was Feb. 4. It's now supposed to take effect in May, after a new subscription service for the data in question is up and running.

Still, opponents said the subscription service won't solve the problem.

It's a policy change that could cause car insurance premiums to spike, safety recall notices for some Minnesota drivers to stop -- and we still haven't found a lawmaker who knew about it before last week.

"I first heard about it in the news reports that came out," said Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, the ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, which oversees many Driver and Vehicle Services issues.

"It's nothing that had public input. It certainly was a decision made by the administration, Gov. Dayton, that appears to be a significant overreach," Pederson said.

Right now, auto insurers, dealerships, and other companies can buy the driver's license and motor vehicle information of all Minnesotans from DPS. But the department wants to stop giving out that data in bulk. Instead, it will charge $5 per record requested.

"It's a drastic increase that is absolutely going to affect the people that are using that information now," Pederson said.

DPS said the new policy, "is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen data protection. We're committed to protecting private data, keeping it secure, and making it available only to those who qualify to see it under the law."

Pederson said he admires that end, but questions the means. He now wants legislative hearings on this issue.

"We want to have an open and clear process so Minnesotans can weigh in on this," Pederson said.

It's not just Republicans concerned about this -- the Democratic chair of the same committee is also asking questions of DPS.

We're told a group of car insurance companies and auto dealers is considering pushing possible legislation aimed at stopping this policy from taking effect.

Last year, Minnesota driver's license information was illegally accessed by police officers -- that's part of the reason DPS wants to make this change and better protect that data.

But opponents said in addition to insurance premiums and recalls, the new policy could also force some Minnesotans to pay for car insurance quotes. It could also render resources like CARFAX virtually useless.


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