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Seen At 11: Privacy Experts Alarmed By New York DMV's Sale Of Information

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- We do everything we can to protect our personal information, to keep it from falling into the hands of identity thieves or other cyber criminals.

But CBS2 has learned that a routine transaction could put millions of New Yorkers' private information at risk, and that has security experts very worried.

The act of driving in New York itself is not for the faint of heart. But as CBS2's Maurice DuBois reported, CBS2 has learned of something that many find far more troubling than a traffic jam.

CBS2 has learned that the state Department of Motor Vehicles is selling motorists' personal information after they get their driver's license or register their vehicle, and New York is making millions doing it.

Drivers who spoke to CBS2 Monday had no idea.

"That's no good. That's absolutely no good, you know?" one driver said.

"Are you serious?" another said.

"I think it's outrageous," a third said. "It could get into the wrong hands."

And security experts said drivers are right to be worried.

"They can be used for identity theft purposes," said security expert Paul Viollis.

Viollis said the state is selling driving records, addresses, makes of cars, and even dates of birth. That raises the risk, he said, of someone "actually becoming someone else -- your information being used by someone else so people can become you."

But the state said there is a good reason to sell the information – that it needs to be done so drivers can be notified of recalls. The state said it also sells the information to insurance companies, courts and employers who need to verify driving records.

But state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) does not agree with the practice.

"You have to register your car, but you shouldn't have to give away your information," he said.

Cahill is sponsoring a law that would let drivers decide if they want the information sold.

"What my bill does is it gives people the opportunity to make that decision for themselves," he said.

The state insists that there are strict rules that control how much information is used, and who can obtain it, so people and their information are protected. But security experts are still concerned about it falling into the wrong hands.

"Once the information's out there, what's important to remember is that there is no electronic eraser, so whoever wants to get it is going to get it," Viollis said.

The DMV declined CBS2's request for an interview. The agency said the practice is routine in other states.

New York state made $60 million from the sale of information last year.

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