Hotel Brands

ICO intends to fine Marriott £99m over 2018 data breach

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a notice of its intention to fine hotel brand Marriott International £99,200,396 for “infringements” of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The proposed fine relates to a cyber incident which was notified to the ICO by Marriott in November 2018. 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.

The ICO said 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 firm, Marriott has cooperated 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.

The ICO said it will “carefully” consider the representations made by the company and the other concerned data protection authorities before it takes its final decision. In response, Marriott said it “has the right” to respond before any final determination is made and a fine can be issued by the ICO, and that the company intends to “vigorously” defend its position.

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.”

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