• Helen Pritchett

Data in the News – March 2020

Virgin Media confirms 'misconfigured database' left personal data of 900,000 people exposed

Telco provider Virgin Media, one of Britain’s biggest brands, confirms 'data incident' that left personal details of 900,000 people exposed, but denies its systems were hacked or that it suffered a data breach.

Virgin Media has confirmed a system configuration error in one of its marketing databases allowed an unauthorised third-party to gain access to the personal information of 900,000 people.

The consumer broadband provider has denied the system was hacked or that it has fallen victim to a cyber attack of some kind, and confirmed access to the system was made possible by an incorrectly configured database. The offending database was shut down as soon as the issue came to light, but it is understood the error may have been present for up to 10 months before it was detected.

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Police storage of DNA and fingerprint data under MSP scrutiny

MSPs are to vote on a new law to control the storage of biometric data. How police deal with personal information including DNA, fingerprints and facial images will be covered in the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill, the law gets its third reading at the Scottish parliament on Tuesday.

The bill recommends an independent commissioner is appointed to ensure police investigations are lawful and ethical. The bill was introduced by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf following a report on the need to balance public safety with individual rights.

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Personal data stored by Ring doorbells deeply concerning

A data request submitted by the BBC has set alarm bells ringing about the data privacy regulations of doorbell company Ring.

Ring doorbells, owned by Amazon, use your home WiFi to secure your property, with an overall mission to reduce crime in communities. But a recent data request reveals the sheer amount of data stored by the security company, including personal details.

And it is not just the quantity of data stored that's concerning, but the nature of the information, and what it discloses, that is particularly worrying. Frederike Kaltheuner, privacy expert, says: "What's most interesting is not just the data itself, but all the patterns and insights that can be learned from it. "Knowing when someone rings your door, how often, and for how long, can indicate when someone is at home. If nobody ever rang your door, that would probably say something about your social life as well. This isn't just about privacy, but about the power and monetary value that is attached to this data".

The question is: how can Amazon use this information to potentially manipulate users in the future? What's at stake for the consumer?

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Do You Know Who's Using Your Personal Data?

Recurring data breaches continue to remind us that no one’s identity is safe. The sad truth is, every time personal data is collected or processed, security concerns emerge.

In early 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed the exposure of 87 million Facebook user profiles. Later that year, Marriott International announced a cybertheft that affected 500 million customers. Clearly, current systems for sharing and storing personal information are inherently vulnerable.

With the rise of the digital economy, banks, governments and stores have become de facto identity management organizations, responsible for protecting consumer data. However, consumers are understandably concerned about whether their data is truly protected. In a recent Deloitte study, 81% of U.S. respondents said they had lost control over the way their personal data is collected and used.

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