Marriott International fined £99.2m for historic data breach

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced plans to fine Marriott International £99.2m for breaches of data protection law.

The fine pertains to a security breach that exposed 339 million guests’ personal details. 30 million guest records related to residents of 31 countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). Seven million related to UK residents.

The breach was traced back to the systems of the Starwood hotels group in 2014. Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, but the exposure of customer information was not discovered until November 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.

This statement follows another by the ICO earlier this week, announcing plans to fine British Airways £183m for an unrelated incident. Two large scale fines of high-profile companies illustrate the ICO’s increased power under GDPR regulations.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “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.”

Marriott International’s President and CEO, Arne Sorenson, said: “We are disappointed with this notice of intent from the ICO, which we will contest. Marriott has been cooperating 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 Starwood guest reservation database that was attacked is no longer used for business operations.

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