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ICO proposes second huge fine following Marriott data breach

10 July 2019

Hotel group Marriott International is facing a £99m fine from the UK Information Commissioner's Office for breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), in the second notice of intention to fine announced by the ICO this week.

It follows the £183m notice issued to British Airways, revealed on Monday (click here for report). Fines under the GDPR can be based on a company's global turnover.

The proposed fine against Marriott relates to a cyber incident notified to the ICO by Marriott in November 2018. A variety of personal data contained in approximately 339m guest records globally were exposed by the incident, of which around 30m related to residents of 31 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), 7m of them to UK residents.

It is believed the vulnerability began when the systems of the Starwood hotels group were compromised in 2014. Marriott subsequently acquired Starwood in 2016, but the exposure of customer information was not discovered until 2018. The ICO’s investigation found that Marriott failed to undertake sufficient due diligence when it bought Starwood and should also have done more to secure its systems.

Marriott has co-operated with the ICO investigation and has made improvements to its security arrangements since the events came to light. It will now have an opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and sanction before the ICO takes its final decision.

The ICO has been investigating the case as lead supervisory authority on behalf of other EU member state data protection authorities. It has also liaised with other regulators. Under the GDPR "one stop shop" provisions the data protection authorities in the EU whose residents have been affected will also have the chance to comment on the ICO’s findings.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham commented: "The GDPR makes it clear that organisations must be accountable for the personal data they hold. This can include carrying out proper due diligence when making a corporate acquisition, and putting in place proper accountability measures to assess not only what personal data has been acquired, but also how it is protected.

"Personal data has a real value, so organisations have a legal duty to ensure its security, just like they would do with any other asset. If that doesn’t happen, we will not hesitate to take strong action when necessary to protect the rights of the public."


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