First BA, now ICO fines Marriott hotels nearly £100m for GDPR failings

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

In the second such fine to be issued this week, the International Commissioner’s Office, said it intends to fine Marriott International £99,200,396, for breaches of data protection law. 

As reported by Prolific London earlier this week, the move comes in the wake of another fine the ICO imposed on global airline brand British Airways, for similar breaches.

The London-based ICO said that, following an extensive investigation, it had issued a notice of its intention to fine Marriott for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Cyber incident

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. 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. 


Room 101?: ICO slaps huge fine on Marriott hotels for data failures

Due diligence failure

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.

“The GDPR makes it clear that organisations must be accountable for the personal data they hold”, said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. 

“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.

Value of personal data

“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 has co-operated with the ICO investigation and has made improvements to its security arrangements since these events came to light, the ICO said. 

The company will now have an opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and sanction.

The ICO has been investigating this case as lead supervisory authority on behalf of other EU Member State data protection authorities. It has also liaised with other regulators. 

Under the GDPR ‘one stop shop’ provisions the data protection authorities in the EU whose residents have been affected will also have the chance to comment on the ICO’s findings.

The ICO will consider carefully the representations made by the company and the other concerned data protection authorities before it takes its final decision.

Data security vital - DMA 

The intended fine is the second to go over the previous maximum of £500k – the GDPR allows for up to 4% of global turnover or €20m.

“Following the announcement earlier this week, this is the second fine the ICO has issued under the new GDPR laws”, said Rachel Aldighieri, MD of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). 

“As well as the frequency of these this week, the amount of the intended fine shows just how much importance the regulator places on the security of customers' data and how seriously businesses should take this issue.

"For most businesses, data is its most valuable asset. So consumer trust in how they collect, store and use data is fundamental to building long-term relationships with customers and their willingness to share data.

“The risks to Marriott go beyond the potential fines regulators can issue too, as the long-term effects on customer trust, share price and public perception could have more lasting damage. 

“Data is an essential part of the digital economy, so maintaining its security must be a business imperative."

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