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Security - Where's the Problem, People or Technology?

As part of my job I am fortunate (at times) to be able to travel to different locations including new countries and cities.  This is mainly within Europe but sometimes the Middle-East and North America.  Most parts of the travel itinerary are booked automatically through my employer using a web based travel portal.  This generally contains basic personal information such as name, date of birth and next of kin often required not only for air line bookings but also border security.

Last week I was fortunate to be back in Spain, Madrid to be precise.  A lovely city, great food and friendly people to work alongside.  My one concern was the handling of my personal information during the trip.  Since 2004, in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, EU states now require Advanced Passenger Information data to be collected prior to an individual traveling to and from EU states like Spain.  This is non-negotiable as far as I am aware and no information is publicly available as to how this information is stored and processed.  This is just 'one of those things' you have to do and to be honest it doesn't raise any major concerns with me.

My big worry came at my hotel.  This was a generic city centre business hotel, accustomed to handling large volumes of foreign travelers both on business and pleasure.  Upon arrival my passport was asked for (pretty usual request) as well as my name - again pretty usual for checking into a hotel!  I then received my room card and a ticket for my breakfast and hotel charges.  The next day I took a closer look at the ticket.  I was amazed.  The card contained pretty much my entire international identity as well as my credit card data!


The ticket contained my passport number, date of birth, full name, nationality as well as my full credit card number and expiration date.  That's a whole lot of information to be placed on a piece of paper that could easily end up in a waste paper bin, the back of a taxi or the station floor.  I raised this to the receptionist the next day to which the generic response of 'company policy' was returned.  I was amazed.

Perhaps it's not necessarily the technology used to protect information and identity details, it is the people and process that manage and use the data which place it at risk.

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