In response to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Division of Motor Vehicles agreed to the entry of a court order Friday that will require the agency to first adopt regulations through a public process before using a new database designed to identify and possibly take action against uninsured drivers.
The ACLU of Rhode Island on Tuesday sued the DMV for implementing its Uninsured Motorists Identification Database without first establishing any regulations to prevent the improper disclosure of drivers’ personal information, avoid mistaken registration revocations, or to otherwise ensure that the program is properly administered by the private out-of-state vendor contracted to run the program. The database is designed to compile information from insurance companies about the identities of insured drivers and information from the DMV about registered motor vehicles. The vendor matches the information to identify and notify vehicle owners who do not appear to have insurance. The lawsuit, filed by ACLU volunteer attorney Albin Moser, noted that insurance companies and the DMV had begun sending personal information about drivers to the vendor without any regulations whatsoever to address key issues over implementation of the database.
The ACLU’s successful settlement of this suit comes as the first wave of notices to drivers who purportedly didn’t have insurance was supposed to be sent out by the vendor. Residents must obtain or prove they have insurance within a specified period of time or else their registration will be revoked. Under this agreement, the DMV must now established regulations in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act before any notifications are sent.
ACLU attorney Moser said: “Thanks to the ACLU’s analysis, the Superior Court and the DMV were made aware of several privacy and due process concerns that were best addressed by a public rulemaking process before the program’s implementation. The ACLU will be an active participant in that process in order to make sure that these concerns are adequately addressed.”
The lead plaintiff in the case, ACLU of RI policy associate Hillary Davis, added: “A number of questions remain about the implementation of the UMID, from ways to protect Rhode Islanders’ privacy to how drivers whose registrations are erroneously revoked may have them reinstated without punishment. We commend the DMV for recognizing the need to move forward on answering these questions, and look forward to testifying on the proposed rules.”