Last week I worked on a Sunday Times investigation into data breaches at internet cafes. Three reporters checked internet cafe computers around the country to see whether confidential data had been left in the computer memories.
And how. Simply by checking the desktop, documents and ‘my pictures’ folder, we stumbled across a treasure trove of private information: scanned copies of passports, visa applications, birth certificates, legal documents; a report from the editor-in-chief of a well-known property magazine detailing its legal struggles with a “confessed reformed cocaine addict”; a fax to a resident at the Dorchester referring to ‘the hostage situation in Cameroon’ and several databases of names, addresses and private details of vulnerable individuals left by care workers or civil servants.
The chain Mailbox Etc were the worst offenders, with no log-in/out process and irregular wiping of computer memories. I found documents dating back to mid 2012 on some machines. Many small independent cafes were among the best, such as the L2K Internet Gaming Centre in Manchester, which restricted users’ access to the computer memory.
The Information Commissioner announced that it would be investigating a number of bodies for a breach of confidentiality as a result of our investigation.