DATA SCANDALS HAVE BEEN UNFOLDING IN VARIOUS PLACES
Although the Cambridge Analytica scandal has easily been the most serious data scandal of this year, you don’t necessarily need to have used Facebook to have cause for concern about the safety of your personal data. In 2018, researchers found that the fitness app Polar enabled them to track locations of military and security services users. The researchers sourced personal details – such as names, heart rates and areas of residency – of over 6,460 personnel before publicizing the leak.
In June came the discovery that Floridabased data broker Exactis had left almost 340 million individual records of US data – on both citizens and businesses – exposed on a publicly accessible server. “It seems like this is a database with pretty much every US citizen in it,” Vinny Troia, the security researcher who made the discovery, told WIRED. That was no small concern given that the data included such highly personal characteristics as phone numbers and home addresses.
While the exposure of 230 million American citizens’ data might initially seem like a disaster, it pales in significance compared to a separate breach affecting the Indian government’s biometric system Aadhaar. Personal information – including fingerprints and home addresses – of virtually all of India’s 1.1 billion citizens are on this system. However, in March, a security researcher explained to ZDNet how the system was dangerously insufficient in its security.
What about those Marriott and Panera Bread leaks? In the former case, Marriott revealed in November, that hackers had snatched practically every data point of 327 million people who had stayed at Starwood properties of the hotel group since 2014. Meanwhile, in April came the revelation that records of Panera Bread customers – including names and physical addresses – had been leaking from the sandwich chain’s website for eight months.