Feeds

Data Protection the DVLA Way

Just don't ask awkward questions

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Don’t mess with the DVLA, or bad things might happen to your data.

At least, that is the experience of Register reader, James Collins, who has been at odds with the DVLA for the best part of a year over what he believes to be serious inadequacies in its handling of penalty notices.

Let’s park that issue for now. After a year of getting nowhere, Mr Collins turned to The Register and LibDem MP Norman Baker for help. This stirred the DVLA into action: it set the debt collectors on to him.

To be fair, it also began talking to him seriously again: a Freedom of Information request submitted some months back might now receive a serious answer.

But it is with the debt collection agency that the story turns a little odd.

As far as we are aware, Mr Collins does owe the DVLA some money. At the heart of this dispute is a claim by Mr Collins that he doesn’t owe it quite as much money as it thinks he does. He understood, perhaps mistakenly, that he would not be chased for this amount whilst the issue was under review.

This is not unusual: readers almost certainly know of cases where one arm of an organisation promises to put a debt on hold, whilst another (computerised) arm just carries right on enforcing.

What is interesting is the data that appears to be being used and possibly passed between DVLA and debt enforcers. Mr Collins fiercely resists anyone making use of his information without his permission.

So he was very surprised when he received a phone call from Moorcroft Debt Recovery, one of the UK’s largest debt collecting agencies, to his ex-directory phone number. He was even more surprised when a manager with this agency later refused to talk to him unless he provided his date of birth which, he was told, was held on the system.

However, a spokesperson for the DVLA said: "Where enforcement action is necessary, we pass on basic information to our appointed debt collection agencies.

"We don't tend to hold phone numbers - and these would certainly not be passed out."

The DVLA said it would be very unlikely that it would hand over anyone's date of birth.

Moorcroft was, initially, rather sceptical of Mr Collins’ claims. Their spokesperson was adamant that it does not consult external sources of information and only use what it is given by the DVLA.

This changed after Moorcroft spoke to Mr Collins again - and asked him if he could possibly hand over his phone number. The reason? According to Mr Collins, they explained that his number was not now on the system, but it might have been a week ago. If he gave them his number, they could check to see if they had phoned it!

They also became distinctly chillier towards The Register, requesting all further questions be sent in writing – and demanding to see our bona fides before they would deal with us at all.

We did submit a series of questions to Moorcroft, asking it to confirm or deny Mr Collins’ version of events and to explain, if his version is accurate, how it came by his personal data legally. Moorcroft said it had no wish to respond at this stage, although it assured us it had not in acted illegally any way.

Commenting on this affair, the LibDem Transport spokesman Norman Baker MP said:

"The DVLA must be very careful not to inappropriately release data on private individuals. Information given to the DVLA is given for necessary minimum purposes and these must be respected. Unfortunately, the DVLA’s history of giving out data to clampers and others already raises concerns.

"If, on the other hand, the agency has obtained data from a private source, that also raises questions."

On the balance of probabilities, it does look as though the DVLA is not guilty of any overt impropriety in this case - however, it has yet to give any indication that it is prepared to investigate the fairly serious charges made by Mr Collins. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.