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Doxxing Series

Is Posting a License Plate Doxxing

With doxxing encompassing a wide swath of personal information, it’s reasonable to ask: Is posting a license plate doxxing? After all, it could be considered a personally identifying piece of information, especially when accompanied by other details. 

In this guide, we’ll review whether or not posting a license plate is considered doxxing and what you can do to protect yourself from it. 

Is Posting a License Plate Doxxing?

Doxxing is defined as publishing someone else’s personal information online without their permission. So when someone publishes your license plate, have they doxxed you?

Posting a license plate on its own – with no other details – is generally not considered doxxing. This is because a license plate number does not inherently give away any information about the vehicle owner. 

It’s also generally quite difficult (but not impossible – see below) to link a license plate number to a person. 

Can You Look Up Someone Based On Their License Plate Through the DMV? 

There’s a widespread misconception that you can go to a DMV office with someone’s license plate number and ask them for personal information about the plate’s owner. 

However, this hasn’t been the case since 1994, when the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was introduced.

What is the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act?

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that governs the privacy and disclosure of personal data collected by state Departments of Motor Vehicles. 

As written, the law (18 U.S.C. § 2725) makes it illegal for the DMV to share personal information connected to a motor vehicle record without the owner’s express permission. 

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act

In other words, if someone tries to find out your personal information by going to the DMV with a license plate number and asking for more details about the owner, their request will likely be denied.

That said, you can find out some information about the vehicle associated with a license plate number at the DMV (or their online portal), including its make and year. 

DMV portal - license plate search results

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act took shape in part due to the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989 by an obsessed fan who was able to obtain her home address from the DMV. 

The incentive to pass the act mounted in 1992 when opponents of abortion began using license plate numbers to track down and harass abortion clinic patients and abortion providers. 

Exceptions and loopholes to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act

There are some exceptions to the Driver’s Protection Act. 

Some DMVs around the country have started selling personal data to third parties to help fund their operations. This means that your data could be sold to insurance companies, private investigators, tow companies, and a host of other for-profit enterprises – for as little as $0.01 an entry.

Some of the data being sold by DMVs can be tied to individuals, although DMVs stress they don’t accompany it with social security numbers or photos. 

Can You Use Data Brokers to Find Someone Based On Their License Plate? 

Outside of the DMV, it is possible for someone to identify you using just your license plate number using specific data brokers and people search websites.

License plate data broker

Data brokers are companies that collect and compile personal information into profiles and then sell those profiles to anyone willing to pay a minimal fee. Data within each profile could include home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, family information, employment history, and so on.

Most data broker sites do not vet their customers to determine if they have malicious or exploitative intent, meaning someone wanting to dox, harass, and/or stalk you could be able to purchase your profile package. 

Fortunately, you can opt out of data brokers (see our opt-out guides for step-by-step instructions). Note that each data broker has its own opt-out process and that you’ll need to opt out on a continuous basis. This is because brokers relist your profile when new information about you is found on the internet. 

Alternatively, you can subscribe to a data broker removal service such as DeleteMe, which will regularly opt you out from data brokers and people search sites on your behalf. 

Becoming Undoxxable

Considering the negative repercussions that can come from being doxxed, it’s not unreasonable to set your sights on becoming undoxxable. It may sound like a lofty goal, but any step you take toward shrinking your online footprint is a step that minimizes the possibility that you’ll be doxxed. 

To become undoxxable, your first step should be to dox yourself. Follow our guide to doxxing yourself using these doxxing tools to see where your information is currently visible online.

Depending on what personal information you find about yourself on the web, you might need to do the following: 

  • Change social media privacy settings from public to private (to hide your biography and limit your post audience).
  • Use different usernames across social media platforms and accounts (to prevent doxxers from tracking you). 
  • Use different passwords, implement two-factor authentication, and use a password manager for login protection.
  • Opt out of data brokers.
  • Set up Google Alerts to be pinged whenever your name or information appears online.

To find out more, see our guide on how to prevent doxxing.

Laura Martisiute is DeleteMe’s content marketing specialist. Her job is to help DeleteMe communicate vital privacy information to the people that need it. Since joining DeleteMe in 2020, Laura h…

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