What your business can learn from the ICO investigation of Uber

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The ICO have published the conclusions of their investigation into Uber, who, back in 2016 suffered a data breach affecting around 2.7 million UK customers and 82,000 drivers. The ICO have issued a fine of £385,000 to Uber for what it sees as “avoidable data security flaws” allowing unauthorised access to the data and failings to notify those affected. Because the issue took place pre-GDPR Uber have been investigated under the Data Protection Act 1998 which allows for up to £500,000 for fines.

ICO Director of Investigations Steve Eckersley said:

“This was not only a serious failure of data security on Uber’s part, but a complete disregard for the customers and drivers whose personal information was stolen. At the time, no steps were taken to inform anyone affected by the breach, or to offer help and support. That left them vulnerable.”

What stands out from this case is the fact that not only did Uber suffer a serious security failure with their databases storing the personal data, they tried to pay-off of the hackers and hide the breach.

So, what can businesses take from this case? All the obvious things:

  1. If you suffer a breach, consider carefully the implications on the data subjects affected. The GDPR requires you to do this anyway and if there is risk to the data subjects you must tell the regulator (ICO in the UK) and if there is “high” risk, the data subjects as well (so they can take steps to mitigate any risk they may face from the breach)
  2. If the breach is significant make sure you tell those affected as soon as you can. Uber left it over a year before making any announcement of their breach and this was frowned upon by the ICO
  3. Paying off hackers to destroy the data is not the answer to make the problem go away
  4. Don’t try and hide the breach from the regulator

If your business is worried about data breaches and how to deal with them under GDPR, after all they will need to be considered on a case by case basis, check out the recording of a free webinar we ran earlier this year.


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