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Ambatel leaves guest data exposed

Ambassador Group, Google blame each other for leak of personal data


Ambassador Group, operator of the Grand Ambassador Hotel in Seoul and several others nationwide, is under fire for leaking its guests’ personal information on Google.

While Google claims the hotels’ slack management of online firewalls is to blame, the hotel franchise is blaming Google’s reckless indexing of online data, including ultra-sensitive personal information.

Putting “Ambatel,” the group’s official English abbreviation of Ambassador Hotels, and a random Korean name into the search engine brings up the management manual of the group. There, one can access the name, mobile telephone number, email address and the date of registered Ambatel members, which includes guests of the hotel rooms, restaurants, fitness centers and banquet facilities. Information about important anniversaries is also available.

Google has deleted the direct search route to the Ambatel’s management manual but users were able to the gain access to the page through the cached service as of Friday afternoon.

Industry insiders concluded the leak was caused by a malfunction of Google’s data collection program and Ambatel’s sloppy security.

Google indexes vast amounts of information from every accessible website online routinely, which enables users around the world to get the most wide-ranging online data. Beforehand, it discards information containing personal and confidential information with its screening system.

Google has been criticized for its handling of information before. Its street view service caused controversy last year after collecting private information.

But the Ambatel’s security system as well as Google’s must have been weak, experts said.

An engineer who works with a hospital data management team said the hotel’s liability is serious.

“It is common sense that a company sets up substantial firewalls against any possible hackers or outside data collection programs,” he said.

“The hotel seems to have been unaware of the problem. That is serious,” he added, saying that companies that deal with guests or clients’ personal information should be extra alert and check the system around the clock.

The hotel blamed Google for revealing top business secrets. “We are considering legal action,” a spokeswoman for the hotels said.

The Ambassador Group currently operates seven hotels in Korea under the brands of Grand Ambassador, Ibis, Novotel and Pullman.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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