US hotel group Marriott International is facing a fine of £99.2M for a data breach that took place in 2014 but was only discovered in 2018.
Following an extensive investigation the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a notice of its intention to fine Marriott £99,200,396 for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
A variety of personal data contained in approximately 339 million guest records globally were exposed by the incident, of which around 30 million related to residents of 31 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). Seven million related 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.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:
“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.”
According to the ICO, Marriott has co-operated with the ICO investigation and has made improvements to its security arrangements since these events came to light. The company will now have an opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and sanction.
Marriott International’s president, Arne Sorenson, said:
“We are disappointed with this notice of intent from the ICO, which we will contest. Marriott has been co-operating with the ICO throughout its investigation into the incident, which involved a criminal attack against the Starwood guest reservation database.
“We deeply regret this incident happened. We take the privacy and security of guest information very seriously and continue to work hard to meet the standard of excellence that our guests expect from Marriott.”
The intention to fine comes a day after the ICO said it planned to fine British Airways £183m over a separate breach.