Last year, the Massachusetts Registry collected more than US0 million in fees and fines; less than 0,000 came back as bounced checks - a whopping 0.1 percent. In short, the DMV is a one-stop-shop for state agencies that want to reach out and affect our lives.
Ironically, this concentration of information, power, and responsibilities has received scant attention from traditional privacy and civil libertarian advocates.
In Wisconsin, you can lose your driver's license if you forget to pay your library fines, don't shovel the snow off your sidewalk, or don't trim a tree that overhangs a neighbor's property.
Some organizations write off anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of their debts as "uncollectable."Most agencies, that is, except for the DMV. And increasingly, says Goleman, those state agencies are turning towards the DMVs as a source of data about the state's citizens, a way of providing services, and ultimately, a means of enforcing policy. On one hand, the DMV database lists virtually every man, woman, and teenager of each state more accurately than the state's own census or tax roles.
"We don't have debt," says Lewis, who oversees all of the Massachusetts Registry's computer and information systems. (Even people who don't drive usually end up getting "identification" cards, issued by the state DMVs, so they can do simple things like write a check or buy an alcoholic drink.) On the other hand, the DMV has a unique means of forcing citizens to comply with state edicts.
(In Oregon, for instance, vehicle registration and driver licensing are currently handled by two separate and incompatible computer systems, although a client-based system is under development.) The new computer made it possible, for the first time, to block renewal of licenses or registrations of people who have outstanding parking tickets, who haven't paid their excise tax, or who owe money to the DMV.
Although a computer hacker might think that an electronic system is more susceptible to fraud and abuse than a paper one, administrators feel otherwise.