Travelocity apologises for exposing customer data

The names and addresses were contained in an internal work file that was inadvertently left on a server that was moved in December from San Francisco to a more secure site in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and converted for use as a production server for Travelocity.com's Web site, said Jim Marsicano, executive vice president of sales and service for Travelocity.com.

"I'm embarrassed to say that a file which should have been routinely deleted was not," Marsicano said. "This was a very serious incident, and we're extremely sorry that it happened. We take their (customers') privacy very, very seriously, which is why we are taking the time to contact in excess of 44,000 people."

Travelocity.com removed the link to the data from its site on Monday as soon as it became aware of the situation, Marsicano said. Travelocity.com member profiles, credit card information and customer data were not exposed, and there were no hackers involved in the security breach, he added.

Nevertheless, the exposure violated Travelocity's privacy policy, which categorically states that the company will never knowingly give away a member's personal data, Marsicano said. But he expects members to be understanding once the company apologises, and he said most of them would not have been aware that it happened had the security hole not been publicised.

Anyone trying to view the data would have had to "know what they were doing" when they clicked on a particular area and would have had to know that the response meant they could go farther, Marsicano said. "Had I seen it I would have thought it was an error," he said.

In addition to contacting the contest entrants, the company, one of the few dot-coms able to maintain a rosy financial image, has launched an internal investigation. Marsicano declined to say whether anyone would be disciplined, but he said the message to other dot-coms is that routine procedures are only as good as their follow-up.

"The thing that did not get focused on was that a production server is open to the world, and you can take nothing for granted. We didn't check as carefully as we should (to ensure the work file had been removed)," he said.

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