(CN) – Federal law does not prohibit private companies from purchasing personal information from state driver’s license databases in bulk, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The federal appeals court in Seattle affirmed the dismissal of two cases that questioned the legality of such purchases under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which defines how drivers’ personal information can be used.
Four plaintiffs in Oregon and Washington filed proposed class actions against Oregonian Publishing, Criminal Information Services, Western Mercantile Agency and other businesses that have purchased entire state driver’s license databases. The plaintiffs alleged that the privacy law does not allow such “stockpiling” of information.
District Courts in both states dismissed the cases for failing to state a valid claim. The appeals were consolidated, and on Monday a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit agreed with the lower courts, finding that buying in bulk does not necessarily lead to stockpiling, and that the “allegation that defendants obtained the information for the improper purpose of stockpiling misconstrues the meaning of ‘purpose.'”
“By purchasing the entire database in bulk rather than waiting to obtain individual records when they were needed, defendants no doubt wanted to make their access to the information easier when the time came to use it and probably hoped to get the information at less cost as compared with the expenses of requesting one record at a time,” Judge Richard Clifton wrote for the unanimous panel. “But that was not, in any real sense, the ‘purpose’ for obtaining the information.
“Someone who buys toilet paper in a package of 48 rolls from a warehouse store, for example, ordinarily buys it for the same purpose as the person who buys it one roll at a time. That it might save money or extra trips to the store to buy in bulk isn’t why the toilet paper is bought in the first place.”