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DVLA website still lets visitors check on neighbours benefits

The DVLA is still letting visitors to its website find out if their neighbours are claiming certain disability benefits, in spite of assuring the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it is no longer doing so after the ICO held that “releasing this information unnecessarily reveals the personal circumstances of individuals using their vehicle”. The DVLA vehicle check service is now receiving over 1.5 million visitors a month.

At the beginning of July we warned readers that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours, friends or relatives are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We argued that disclosing this information was a breach of the data protection laws. Initially, DVLA denied that this was the case.

However, after multiple complaints to DVLA and the ICO by Benefits and Work readers it seems that DVLA have now quietly made changes to their site. Unfortunately, we have been contacted by several members already to say that the changes have made no difference.

It appears that the tax class category has now been removed from the DVLA look-up service.

But at the top of the screen there is an entry entitled:

Vehicle excise duty rate for the vehicle.

For people in the disabled tax class this, we understand that this states:

12 month rate: £0.00

There are only very specific circumstances, other than disability, where £0.00 is charged for vehicle tax. Primarily these are that a vehicle has very low emissions and so is in tax Band A or it is in one of a very limited number of other exempt classes, such as classic cars or agricultural vehicles.

So, unless a disabled person’s car is very new or looks like a classic car or a tractor, it will still be possible to learn the disabled status of the keeper, or the person for whom the car is solely used, just from the information that the vehicle attracts £0.00 tax.

In other words, personal data about the keeper or user of the vehicle rather than the tax band of the vehicle itself is still being displayed.

We contacted DVLA about this and a spokesperson told us that:

“ We have been speaking to the ICO as part of our regular discussions we have with them.”

They went on to say that:

“Our Vehicle Enquiry Service is a simple and effective way for customers to check online what information we hold about a vehicle. It is proving very popular with more than 1.5 million visits every month. The service does not provide any personal information but displays details about a vehicle such as colour, engine size and when the tax is due.

“The service is currently being tested with the public. Having listened to feedback about vehicles in the disabled tax class, we have temporarily removed the tax class from the service and are currently considering alternatives.”


We contacted the ICO and told them of members’ continued concerns. We also asked them whether the changes to the DVLA site were agreed with their office and when their report into the was issue is due to be published. The ICO initially told us:

“We understood the DVLA have responded to our data protection concerns and were going to stop releasing tax information through the vehicle enquiry service. We have been clear from the start, that releasing this information unnecessarily reveals the personal circumstances of individuals using their vehicle. In many cases, these would be circumstances that the individual would not routinely choose to disclose and so this change is to be welcomed.

“We are still in contact with the DVLA on the subject.

“There isn’t a report into this issue.”

We then pointed out that the ICO had refused to accept further complaints from a number of our readers in July, on the grounds that they were already looking into the matter and instructed our readers to check the ICO website for updates. The ICO then responded:

“We raised concerns with the DVLA that their new online vehicle enquiry service could reveal personal information relating to an individual using the vehicle. We are pleased the DVLA has responded and has removed the tax class from the service. We will look into any concerns that the current information still unnecessarily reveals personal information.”

“We are currently not planning a statement as we are still in discussions with the DVLA.”

Readers who are concerned that their personal data is still being made available in this way may want to contact DVLA and the information commissioner’s office and insist that this matter is looked into again immediately.

Comments  

#14 filly 2014-09-14 00:14
I just viewed the DVLA putting in my registration and make of car it still showing TAX as £0.00 so anyone can still see that it is a DLA vehicle. I feel this is a violation of a persons privacy. They have only used the DVLA to use the public to snoop on their neighbours. It's not enough that disabled people are being targeted but this adds further indignation. Does the disabled have ay rights..
#13 pauliboo 2014-09-10 22:18
At least the DVLA have got rid of the "disabled" tag that was previously shown.
I agree with the other poster, does it really matter what your neighbours think? At the moment they can just have a look at your tax disc anyway.
I've used the tool a few times now to find out details of that car that past me so quickly was, I only need engine size and CO2 then off to Parkers website to work out which model it was.
I then add it to my list of "I must drive/own that car in the future"
+2 #12 pauliboo 2014-09-10 21:47
Robbie Cramp - What right have you got to approach anyone with a Blue Badge? Who are you to judge them - are you a medical professional?
I look like I walk normally but I have severe arthritis in my spine, I walk straight as that's the correct posture to have, walking with a stick makes my condition worse and so I walk slowly but properly. I've had my Blue Badge since I was 26, I'm 34 now but still probably look too young for your eyes!
It's not just the elderly who need Blue Badges and the parking that goes with them.
If you ever questioned me then I would politely ask you to get lost, none of your business is it?
It's also not worth being killed like that poor bloke a few years ago, just get over it and stop moaning, perhaps you could start educating yourself on the different types of disabilities, use your time to do voluntary work, etc.
+3 #11 billmac65 2014-09-10 20:35
Honestly I couldn't care less if any of my neighbours etc looked at DVLA Website and read contents about my DLA Award. I have nothing to hide and if this upsets someone because I can't work due to a long term disability illness, and obtain a new car every three years then tough luck, I didn't ask to become disabled and didn't go out of my way to be disabled. So any curtain twitcher or nosey neighbour or insecure neighbour of mine take it or leave it I am here to live my life my way and if they don't like it then let me break your spine and legs and see what you become. People should just get on with their lifes and leave everyone else to do the same. ;-)
+2 #10 Jim Allison 2014-09-10 16:57
Quote:
I personally think it is a good idea to a point. If it is being used by nosey neighbours and people who just want to find out if a person gets higher rate DLA?PIP then it is wrong. However I have seen numerous people park in disabled parking bays get out of the car and walk into supermarkets and get round there very well and then pack car up and go across car park into a market square. This has happened on numerous occasions and it is hurtful when you see a disabled person walking (well really struggling) because they could not get into the disabled bay. I once saw a car pull up outside next in a shopping parade with a line of 6 shops and designated disability bays and a girl got out about 18 and there were 3 other people in the car so I knocked on window and asked if he could tell me why he had parked there. He said she only just popped in there and I do have a blue badge and he showed it me on his dashboard so I asked who the disabled person was and he said his wife and she had stayed at home so informed him he could not display it without the disabled person being in the car and the disabled person must be out of the car if you use it. He was very nice about it but I knew he would do it again as this car park has no parking enforcers and that's what it needs really.
With the greatest respect, from the DLA Fraud Team who I trained with when I was a DLA Tribunal Member, the level of fraud in DLA is less than 0.5%, the lowest of any social security benefit.

Jim Allison (former moderator, Social Security Tribunal Member & retiredWelfare Rights Lawyer, but still active in the welfare rights field.
-3 #9 robbiecramp 2014-09-10 16:06
I personally think it is a good idea to a point. If it is being used by nosey neighbours and people who just want to find out if a person gets higher rate DLA?PIP then it is wrong. However I have seen numerous people park in disabled parking bays get out of the car and walk into supermarkets and get round there very well and then pack car up and go across car park into a market square. This has happened on numerous occasions and it is hurtful when you see a disabled person walking (well really struggling) because they could not get into the disabled bay. I once saw a car pull up outside next in a shopping parade with a line of 6 shops and designated disability bays and a girl got out about 18 and there were 3 other people in the car so I knocked on window and asked if he could tell me why he had parked there. He said she only just popped in there and I do have a blue badge and he showed it me on his dashboard so I asked who the disabled person was and he said his wife and she had stayed at home so informed him he could not display it without the disabled person being in the car and the disabled person must be out of the car if you use it. He was very nice about it but I knew he would do it again as this car park has no parking enforcers and that's what it needs really.
#8 michelle3434 2014-09-10 12:01
I feel I am just going round in circles with the D.V.L.A and the I.C.O. regards my concerns. The personal information the D.V.L.A. has already and still are revealing has now been on view to the general public for some time, so the deed is done and no doubt nosey neighbours etc. have already had a snoop. Therefore, now that this personal information has been exposed is there any action we should be taking about what has happened?
+2 #7 Jim Allison 2014-09-09 19:15
Hi Jeanette,

In my opinion as a retired welfare rights lawyer, yes.

However, I still cannot understand why the ICO are refusing to provide me with a copy of what the ICO & DVLA have discussed thus far.

Jim
+3 #6 Admin Pookini 2014-09-09 17:19
could someone assaulted by a person who discovered their benefits status from the DVLC complain to them if the evidence of a court of law indicated the assailant used DVLC information to find his benefits victim?
+3 #5 Paul Richards 2014-09-04 16:28
Hi all,
Just as a postcript - please have a look at this one!

I personally think that this Tory 'Charities Minister' should resign over his ill-considered remarks!!

http://www.talktalk.co.uk/news/uk/article/charities-to-keep-out-of-politics/142197/
+3 #4 Paul Richards 2014-09-03 21:26
Hi all,
Yet another disgraceful situation it seems!
1) Why has not the Information Commissioner been able to act on this? - If you or me entered into an agreement not to divulge individual person's details (under the Data Protection Act), then we would be held to account very quickly under the law of the land!
2) Jim Allison rightly used the FOI laws to request that information was made available to the general public - but it seems that the ICO's office has refused to answer his legitimate query under the excuse that 'discussions are still ongoing'
I would have thought that under British Law as it stands, the DVLA would probably have been forced to temporarily suspend divulging any other information or date to the General Public until such a time as this particular matter with the Information Commissioner's Office is finally settled - one way or the other.
After all, it is your's and mine and anyone else's data for that matter that is ultimately on the line and is available to any 'Tom, Dick or Harry' (or their wives or aquaintances etc, etc to have a look at, at their discretion and convenience, for whatever purpose)
As usual it seems, the Government Offices come first, the General Public come second - and the DLA benefit claimants come last!
Well, - there's another surprise!
+3 #3 Admin Pookini 2014-09-03 08:47
I will write to DVLC and ICO is it worth pointing that the website has already 15 million violations of data protection already? Why is DVLC apparently boasting about this???
+3 #2 shimtoan 2014-09-03 01:03
it's no longer hidden in the middle of the details either, it's stuck at the top so it's the first thing anybody sees
+2 #1 Jim Allison 2014-09-02 13:45
As previously reported, I used the FOI Act to ask the ICO what was the
outcome of their discussions with the DVLA. The ICO refused to provide the information requested. It appears that the discussions are still ongoing, but that wasn't a sufficient reason to refuse my FOI request. :sad:

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