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Second-class service

10.01.2013 / 03:15 CET
How the Belgian national railway operator uploaded onto a public website a folder containing the personal details of 1.5 million customers.

Readers in possession of a European Voice wall calendar for 2013 will be aware that 28 January has been designated by the office of the European Data Protection Supervisor as Data Protection Day.

The Belgian national railway operator might be in need of such a calendar. Just before Christmas the company (SNCB or NMBS, depending on your linguistic predilection) uploaded onto a public website a folder containing the names, genders, date of birth, emails, addresses and phone numbers of 1.5 million customers, equivalent to around 14% of Belgium's population (although many of the victims may have been non-Belgians). It was one of the largest ever data leaks by a public company.

The Belgian national data supervisor – the privacy commission – has launched an investigation. Members of the public who have had their data leaked can lodge a complaint with the privacy commission, but the commission says that anyone wanting to know whether their details were on the leaked list has to contact SNCB/NMBS, and has to send a letter with a copy of his or her identity card as proof of identity. (Rather touchingly, the commission advises letter-writers to block out the irrelevant data on the card such as the number and the signature. You cannot be too careful with SNCB/NMBS.) A week ago the number of complaints and requests filed was already 1,700, but it is expected to be much higher by 28 January. In the meantime, anyone wanting extra copies of our wall calendar should send an email to evdiary@economist.com

© 2014 European Voice. All rights reserved.
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