back to article DVLA pledges investigation over Castrol spy posters

The DVLA's sideline in selling data to marketing companies is under renewed scrutiny after Castrol used it to target drivers with personalised billboard advertising. The poster campaign - at five high profile locations in London - was scheduled to run for two weeks but was pulled last week after just four days, following …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    The DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate" and it was "urgently...

    ...raising an invoice to send to Castrol."


  2. Eponymous Cowherd
    Big Brother

    Well Done DVLA

    Thank you for, yet again, demonstrating how the Government cannot be trusted with personal data and illustrating why the National ID card scheme and the National Identity Register is such a very BAD idea!

  3. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "Oh, look! We got caught!"

    "The DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate" and it was "urgently investigating" ".


  4. Scott Mckenzie

    Good luck to them...

    ...the details of my registration plate according to the DVLA are 3 years out of date, so they'd be advising incredibly wrongly in this instance, 0w30 Fully Synthetic as used in my previous car in a Diesel Toyota Avensis would be messy....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    Shouldn't be too long before 'concerned citizens' can scrape together some money and get all the data they need to mount a, "The lime green Volvo stopped at the lights in front of you, registration ABC123D, is owned by a convicted paedophile", interactive campaign.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    It still astounds me

    that the DVLA are allowed to pass on this data to third parties at all.

    Why isn't it illegal under the Data Protection Act?

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    '...such use was "inappropriate"...'

    Oh yeah? Sounds a bloody sight more "appropriate" than the service being punted on the telly at the moment where you text in a registration number and get back all the details on the car and a ballpark value based on what it is.

    I wonder where the information to tie a registration number to a specific make, model, year and specification of car required to do this is coming from?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Scott Mckenzie,

    "...the details of my registration plate according to the DVLA are 3 years out of date,"

    Chavvy personalised numberplate alert ... whoop whoop

  9. david 63

    Info could have come from...

    ...any number of places. Here's one:

    Registration and car make and models are not confidential.

  10. Baldychap
    Big Brother


    ....that the entire database will be on wikileaks soon.

    Look forward to that, should be more intresting than the postcode database.

  11. Bassey


    Most of the people I know wouldn't have a clue what their own number plate is - or where to put the oil once they'd bought it! The days of maintaining your own car are long gone for the vast majority.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    This is an acceptable use.

    Hook this up to other Government databases and start publishing personal, medical, tax records, convictions and hearsay on bill boards.

    MPs and Civil Servants first please.

  13. Lan ser


    "The DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate" " but its ok to text a reg number and get back full details of a car including estimated cost?

  14. Jon 84

    Anyone can look up the make/model of a car from its Reg number

    It's a free service on the DVLA website.

    You can't get drivers' details quite so easily although they're quite happy to punt those out to all sorts of fly by night "private ticketing" operations and the like

  15. CADmonkey

    The Question is....

    ...are they fucking stupid, or what?

    You're supposed to be "driving" and not "shopping"

    Your life may depend on it, not to mention other people's.


  16. Matt 21


    "DVLA provides vehicle information under strict contractual terms to the motor industry to ensure vehicles are fitted with the correct parts, including brakes, tyres and oil."

    So before the DVLA did this people were always fitting the wrong parts to their cars? The only way of finding out the make and model of your car is to ask the DVLA?

    They are either stupid or liars.

  17. jon 72

    Something a bit simpler

    DVLA data ? LOL

    It was the PFY a little ways up the road from the billboard typing car registrations furiously into a WiFi laptop. The BOFH having pocketed the cash meant for the DVLA data...

    Come on El Reg, we don't mind a bit of bias, but pre-judgement ?

  18. Spleen

    Right car, wrong oil

    Well, that's a useful service. The correct oil for your car is obviously "absolutely anything that isn't Castrol", since you'd essentially be loading your engine with 7 parts oil and 3 parts empty air, representing the proportion of the sticker price that goes to their Strategy Boutique to think up "exciting, intriguing" intrusive marketing bullshit.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get rid of the DVLA

    I don't think they would be missed by anyone. Fine them personally first though, wouldn't want them profiteering from crime and immoral actions.

  20. Matt 58


    They should use the system to flag up uninsured, written off and non taxed cars as they go past. That will get the drivers attention and those around them.

  21. Big Dave 2


    UK drivers are bad enough, so trying to "grab their attention" is a stupid thing to do. Both castrol and DVLA should see this as a safety issue.

    I don't know why anyone is surprised by this leak. It happens all the time!

    I'll get my motorcycle jacket.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    accpetable use?

    there's also someone at the moment advertising a service where you sned a text with a car reg number and it comes back with make/model of the car and an estimate of its current value + some stats on performance etc. Clearly aimed at someone looking to buy a 2nd hand car ... but I suspect there must be some potential for misuse.

  23. Greg D

    Who fucking cares, really?

    All it is is your car information. What good/bad is that going to do to anyone? I dont understand why anyone would worry about somone else knowing what car they have?

    Surely if you did, you would want to gouge everyone's eyes out for looking at you when you drive past them in your car?

    You're not going to stop companies advertising, so I why stop them trying to sell you things you might actually want, or dare I say it, need??

  24. No, I will not fix your computer


    So what? it got the make and model from the number plate and used that to suggest oil?

    1. If the recognition software was better it wouldn't need the number plate.

    2. You don't own a number plate, the DVLA do (not even a chavvy one).

    3. There were no personal details used

    Now, if it flashed up the last recorded owners name, that would be a problem.

    Although, distracting a specific driver (deliberately) is probably a bit stupid, my guess it's just a publicity stunt, if you object to this then boycot Castrol, if you have your oil changed at a garage then tell them you don't want Castrol, simple.

  25. Graham Marsden

    DVLA was "urgently investigating"...

    ... how stupid it is to give this information out to all and sundry...

  26. Hollerith 1

    Do they never think...

    ...that we might be so pissed off with having our details sold that we might deliberately never buy the product? If Castrol flashed up my licence plate, I woudl (1) not believe them (2) next time I needed oil, specifically buy a different brand.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lucky it was Castrol

    Lucky it was Castrol, a reputable company and public, so people are aware of it and lucky the only info published was the oil requirement. But it also means that data is likely being misused by less reputable less public companies.

    If DVLA let the data out for such trivia, then it's been handed out freely to all comers for all reasons.

  28. V 2

    Opt out?

    Anyone know whether it is possible to opt out of your details being sold by the DVLA?

  29. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    "Right Oil, Right Car"?

    That would be the information given in the specifications in the car's manual then. I bet you any money it doesn't say 'Castrol'.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Anyone can look up the make/model of a car from its Reg number

    Jon said:

    >It's a free service on the DVLA website.

    Where? I've needed to do this in the past and have found no such service.


  31. Brutus

    @Greg D

    Totally agree, mate. I just wish halfords would use an updated version of the database and not cause me to buy the wrong replacement battery!

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @Scott Mckenzie

    If the details held by the DVLA for your registration are out of date then it's *your* responsibility. IIRC failure to inform the DVLA of any change is subject to a fine of up to £5000, withdrawal of your sad personalized plate and confiscation of the vehicle.

    Are you saying that the DVLA think your plate is assigned to one vehicle, while you've fitted it to another? If this is the case then how do you get a valid tax disc? The disc has vehicle details on it which presumably won't match your current car. Futhernore this would mean your insurance was invalid. Which means your either some sort of insurance dodging scumbag or you're talking nonsense.

    Which is it?

  33. Martin 19

    @ TeeCee, RE text car check

    I can only think of one application where you would need an urgent text message or a car's spec and value...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Service is surfaced on...

    ... KwikFit & National Tyres and probably other similar sites.

    Get over it.


  35. Al fazed

    Also incompetant, as usual

    Surely Castrol would be better aiming the adverts at the people actually responsible for changing engine oil.

    The number of drivers who know where to top up their oil is probably falling year on year, especially as the current wave of motors that don't allow you or indeed anyone but the manufacturer to do an oil change, Audi for example.

    So this is what we can expect when the Go Vermin start to flog off the data in the NHS system.


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I've seen this

    there's something like this running in hammersmith, on the road to charing cross hospital. Flashes up a number plate & some oil (on a billboard that I guess sucks kilowatts to light up). If it's the same campaign, it's been going for more than four days.

  37. OFI
    Paris Hilton


    @ Jon 84 & AC

    Yes you can check any vehicle, and strangely the line about only checking your own vehicle has recently been removed..

    It does need the vehicle make though so the system Castrol uses must be better!

  38. Steve X

    Re: Evlportalapp

    Hmm. I read that at first glance as "Evil Portal App"...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Other lookup sources

    Course you could always look up the registration no on any of the insurance websites (minor screen scraping needed). I also remember that some of the tyre companies had them (national?)

    not that anyone would check the details to match whats registered against say a carpark and flag up 'unwanted / suspect' ones for tipoffs....

  40. Dogbyte

    Re Scott McKenzie

    By Scott Mckenzie Posted Monday 28th September 2009 11:39 GMT

    ...the details of my registration plate according to the DVLA are 3 years out of date

    Then you're almost certainly breaking the law for failing to properly notify them of a change.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Time to scrape some politically sensitive numbers, then raise merry hell that those numbers are not available (that's assuming DVLA have bothered to mask those). Could be fun if there was a generic string for covert police vehicles..

  42. David 45


    So when's the first defence of being distracted by it, causing an accident, going to be mounted? Where I live we have distracting extremely childish flashing speed signs that have little smiley faces if you are going at the correct speed or some that flash "Thank you" at you. What a load of twaddle. Someone must think the driving age limit has just been lowered to seven!

  43. Anonymous Coward

    want a BILLBOARD advert?

    want an advert for drivers to read?

    oi! driver! ignore this stupid billboard and concentrate on the f****g road!

    you're a driver, not a passenger


  44. Dafydd Lawrence

    What the DVLA encourages the data to be used for...

    Go to the DVLA website and there is a link to here ->

    -they state that you can buy 29 items of car data from any of 5 intermediatries that can be used for marketing or setting up a car dealership.

    They actively encourage it!

    A quote from the website:

    How the data can be used

    Vehicle data contains the first part of each vehicle keeper's postcode. This can give you an idea of the distribution of vehicles across Great Britain by make, model and body type.

    This might help you decide where to locate a dealership for a particular type or make of vehicle.

    You might also find this data useful when planning advertising or promotional campaigns. The data may help you target particular areas where people are more likely to buy new vehicles or tend to own larger or smaller vehicles.

  45. RW

    Is this the root cause?

    Years and years ago, some guru urged that public bodies be run in a more business-like fashion. The thought behind the suggestion was that as then structured, it was impossible for government to figure out what parts of it were yielding net revenue and which parts were a net cost. Indeed, this problem, on a gargantuan scale, is what sank the old Soviet economy.

    The problem arose when "run in a more business-like fashion" (i.e. with proper financial controls) was re-phrased as "run like a business." All of a sudden, the words "profit center" loomed large.

    Any ninny (except politicians and die-hard capitalists) knows that government isn't a business and never will be. It's "customers" aren't customers at all; they're a captive market and they have no alternative. Want a driver's license or a passport? You have only one government body to turn to, with no competition.

    I'll leave it as an exercise how this perverted p.o.v. evolved into the idea that a government body is free to sell its records to anyone with cash in hand, with privacy being a non-issue.

  46. dervheid
    Paris Hilton

    @Matt 21

    "They are either stupid or liars."

    ...or think we all have a zip up the back of our heads!

    I believe the OGC logo is appropriate to the DVLA

  47. Asgard
    Big Brother

    This shows the people in government are utterly corrupt.

    This is a perfect example of how the government isn't protecting our data at all. Not only do they fail to protect our data, they are actually selling it! ... Plus how long before we get this with RFID ID cards.

    "DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate" and it was "urgently investigating""

    So they consider its ok for other forms of exploitation of OUR PERSONAL DATA, but not this case. Companies wouldn't buy the data if they couldn't see a way to exploit the data for personal gain! ... so *Every leak of our data is a leak* ... Plus if they leak OUR DATA even just once, then that can be copied and spread to other companies, either in raw form or in some reprocessed form.

    They should fire everyone in government who has sold, leaked or allowed personal data to slip into the hands of any business.

    That includes firing everyone in local government who sell OUR data.

    This shows the people in government are utterly corrupt. They are blatantly exploiting us for their gain. Sell everyones data, more money for government.

  48. John H Woods Silver badge

    make, model, pah

    Of course if you can see a plate, you can see a make and model. Having a service to check it out is fine. What isn't fine is the DVLA giving out personal information to people claiming to be parking companies. This will change the first time someone sees an attractive woman driver, and gets the DVLA to help in tracking her down. I can see a big compensation case on the horizon.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Correct organisation, wrong problem

    @All of you moaning about the DVLA giving away your details:

    Seriously, who the smeg cares if, from the reg plate, you can get to the make/model/engine type from the reg plate? It should be plainly obvious from looking at the car the reg plate's screwed to what the first two are! I for one find the Castrol website useful because it will tell me from the reg plate what oil a particular car needs, and more importantly, how much (sump capacity), as well trans fluid, diff lube...etc. Doesn't necessarily mean I buy Castrol oil, as it's overpriced...

    The real problem is that the DVLA will sell Driver's details to every cowboy clamping outfit out there! Direct your daggers at that particular outrage, ladies and gentleman, not a potentially useful service.

    For the record, I don't think extending this service to advertising boards is a good idea (Driver distraction), but if it makes the great unwashed think about the implications of ANPR p'raps it's a good thing.

    Mine's the one with the used engine oil stain down the sleeve...

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what I want...

    When will the DVLA create a system which allows us to find out the phone number of the girl driving the car..I want to be able to see a pretty girl, key her reg in and get her phone number...

    Nothing wrong with being a perve...

  51. Gavin Burnett


    Minority Report here we come.

  52. ExpertSkeptic

    Castrol/Facebook/DVLA pretty girl number plate telno plug-in

    Anonymous Coward's reg-to-paedo and RotaCyclic's pervy key-to-pretty-girl-phone-number system could be improved, as keying in the number while accelerating away up the A13 will trigger the mobilePhoneWhileDriving alert or even cause a rear-end shunt as first encounter. Wait until the entire AND system is available as a Maplin electronic kit incorporating a camera which scans the reg of the car in front and some image processing software linked to mobile phone technology. Then one click on a button passes the reg to the DVLA/ISA/CRB/MI6/PaedofinderGeneral/Childline/Facebook/whatever and you get back the CRB check , wall, profile, perfume, typing speed and perfume of the driver in front texted to your mobile or to your Facebook e-mail. Brilliant!

    The system also doubles up to automatically recognize "How's my driving? Phone 0800 123456" on the livery and send random offensive allegations of crappy driving to the boss -- all at the touch of a button.

    Of course this all depends on the ISA and Facebook details being accurate, which depends on a subtle interplay between the accuracy of CRB checks, DVLA records, Facebook profile creators, and that of assorted social services snitches.

  53. ThaMossop


    Well the people who will see the billboard will also be able to see the cars in front of the billboard so DPA-wise, it's hardly telling anyone anything they couldn't find out if they used their eyes?

    As for it not being an 'appropriate' use, I think a different word might be more appropriate here?

  54. Anonymous Coward

    Correct Oil - not quite

    Will it come up with Vauxhall Semi Synthetic and to use a trade club card?

    That is what my car is supposed to use, and it is a LOT cheaper.

  55. Flossie


    This is creepy. Remind me not to buy any Castrol products.....

  56. Juan Inamillion

    "The DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate"

    No shit, Sherlock.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: @/Re Scott McKenzie

    >> >>...the details of my registration plate according to the DVLA are 3 years out of date


    >> Then you're almost certainly breaking the law for failing to properly notify them of a change.

    What makes you think he hasn't notified the DVLA. Notifying the DVLA !== the DVLA updating their database. I was stopped by the police 3 months after I bought my because it was showing no registered keeper or tax details - I was there when the dealer bought the tax and sent off the new keeper suppliment.

    It may be his responsibility to inform the DVLA of changes - if he was the registered keeper at the time, however he isn't responsible for the DVLA updating his details, nor is he responsible for the DVLA passing the new registration details to the companies who have bought the DVLA's data.

  58. steogede

    Not personal data

    I don't see the problem. Cars makes and models aren't people, vehicle registration numbers aren't people - ergo this is not personal data. Anybody looking at your car can see what it's number plate, make and model are. Whether or not the DVLA and private companies should be allowed to profit from what is essentially a public database, that they are required to run is a different matter.

    Reminds me of the PAF (Postoffice postcode/address database) and OS maps. We pay for these organisations to collect and store the data, then we have to pay them again if we want to access it. In the case of PAF it is (or certainly was until recently) cost prohibitive for individuals and small companies to access it, whilst large companies get it (effictively) very cheaply - granted the cost may be great, but their usage is very, very great. Likewise we have a national network of roads that we pay for, and we pay Ordanence Survey to keep upto date maps of where those roads are and when they will change, but when we buy a sat. nav. we end up with rubbish, inaccurate Tele-Atlas maps which if they aren't out of date when we buy them, they soon will be - purely because it is cost prohibitive for Sat-Nav suppliers to use OS data. I remember the days when you bought any atlas of Britain and it showed the roads accurately as they were, complete with any currently planned changes to major roads.

  59. Dave Bell

    Good and Bad.

    It can tell me the official paint colour for my car.

    But, a few years ago, DVLA got things badly wrong with a combine harvester, and I got a bill from a company looking after a supermarket car-park in London. I checked with the Police, since there was possibly a car running around with a false plate. I was told that the Police don't trust the DVLA records. It's common for there to be two different versions of a record: in this case one with my address and one showing the vehicle had been exported.

    (Pure chance: it happened to be somebody I knew on duty at the Police Station, and things were quiet. I didn't see the computer screen.)

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