Hotel giant Marriott International has been fined nearly £100 million following a massive data leak dating back to 2014, comprising hundreds of millions of guest records.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says it intends to fine Marriott £99.2 million for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
It is the second major fine handed down by the ICO this week for breaches of Europe’s tough new data protection laws introduced last year.
On Monday (8 July), British Airways was handed a £183 million GDPR fine after cyber criminals stole a vast range of customers’ personal data.
Marriott’s fine relates to a cybersecurity breach reported to the ICO by the hotel operator in November 2018.
The incident exposed personal data contained in nearly 340 million guest records globally, of which around 30 million related to residents of countries in the European Economic Area.
According to the ICO, the incident concerned seven million records relating to UK residents.
The FCO said the vulnerability emerged when systems belonging to the Starwood hotel group were compromised in 2014. Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, but the breach was not uncovered until 2018.
On Tuesday, the FCO ruled Marriott failed to undertake “sufficient due diligence” when it bought Starwood and should have done more to safeguard and secure its systems.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “GDPR makes it clear 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 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.”
The ICO said Marriott had cooperated with its investigation and made improvements to its security arrangements. It will now be able to make representations to the ICO in light of its findings and sanction.
Marriott says it intends to “vigorously” defend its position. President and chief executive 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.”
Marriott added the Starwood guest reservation database attacked is no longer used for business operations.