Data Crime: A Motorcycle Is Not a Honda Civic

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I call it a “data crime” when someone is abusing or misusing data. When we understand these stories and their implications, it can help us learn from the mistakes and prevent future data crimes. The stories can also be helpful if you must explain the importance of data management to someone.

The Story

A man registered his motorcycle in the state he lives in. Then he started getting toll bills for another state that he hadn’t been traveling in.

The toll bill was for the same plate number and same state as his motorcycle. However, the photo at the top of the bill showed a Honda Civic with the same plate number and state.

In some states, this is very possible. You can have the same plate number on multiple plate types, like a motorcycle plate and a passenger vehicle plate. Some owners even strive to get the same plate number on all their vehicles. However, some states make the plate number unique across the whole state, meaning the plate type is irrelevant.

This has happened to the man multiple times. Possibly, the Honda Civic owner vacations throughout the year in that state with the tolls, and then the bills go to the motorcycle owner. The motorcycle owner then has to argue with the state and show photos of his motorcycle. They’ve suggested he get a new plate, which isn’t easy. Plus, they shouldn’t turn their problem into his problem.

What We Learned

Some people may not know how license plate numbers are created and what makes them unique. It appears that whoever created the state toll bill application did not know. If you’re going to be charging people, you need to understand the rules so that you charge them correctly. If you make a mistake, you suffer the consequences.

Suggesting the motorcycle owner get a new plate number isn’t really solving the problem. At best, it solves it for him and no one else who has the same problem —this can’t possibly be an isolated incident.

It’s important to take accountability for your mistakes. In this case, the motorcycle owner has had multiple conversations with the state, and they’re not resolving the issue, which would mean fixing their application. While that’s not exactly a five-minute fix, it also shouldn’t go on for years.

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Merrill Albert

Merrill Albert

Merrill Albert is a lifelong data person with a combination of industry and consulting experience. She works throughout the data management capabilities, helping companies better manage their data to drive value from it. She specializes in data governance, helping companies establish their own data governance organizations to effectively manage their data.

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