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Drivers make claims against municipalities for impermissible access of personal information

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in McDonough v. Anoka County, reversed the dismissal of claims made against various municipalities and municipal officials alleging they had illegally accessed drivers’ personal information on the Driver and Vehicle Services database. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act prohibits obtaining, disclosing, or using personal information from the database for improper purposes. The drivers, some of whom were persons of “local fame,” alleged that their records had been accessed several hundred times in a span of years, even though they had committed no crimes warranting such searches nor were involved in ongoing investigations. The court held that “obtaining” records included merely searching the database. Noting the number of times the records were accessed, the suspicious patterns in which searches occurred, and that many of the records were accessed late at night or early in the morning (when employees might have less supervision) the court concluded it was plausible that the drivers’ records were obtained for an impermissible purposes. Cities and law enforcement agencies should only access drivers’ records for a permissible purpose and in carrying out “official government duties.”

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