This is the blog of British investigative journalist Jason Lewis.
It features articles from my time as Investigations Editor of the Sunday Telegraph and Whitehall and Security Editor of the Mail on Sunday.
I specialise in writing on intelligence and security matters, human and civil rights and the activities of the British State.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Stolen and sold: Private details of thousands of World Cup fans
The personal details of thousands of football fans who bought World Cup tickets from official FIFA outlets have been stolen and sold for up to £500,000.
Investigators are now trying to establish who purchased the information, which includes the passport details and dates of birth of up to 250,000 supporters, amid concerns it could have fallen into the hands of criminal gangs or even terrorist groups.
It is feared that the data could include sensitive information about dignitaries – including Prince William, players and their families – who travelled with official England supporters’ groups.
At risk: One England fan holds up a replica World Cup at the 2006 tournament in Germany, the subject of the data theft investigation
The massive data breach, which leaves fans open to identity theft and fraud, is now the subject of a criminal investigation.
It has been alleged that an employee of one ticketing agency may have been offering the information for sale.
The stolen database is understood to have been compiled by FIFA, football’s world governing body, in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
It contains details of more than 35,000 England fans, as well as tens of thousands more supporters from other countries.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK data watchdog, has launched an inquiry which also aims to determine whether information on fans who travelled to this summer’s World Cup in South Africa is at risk.
Investigators are trying to establish why the database was not deleted after the German World Cup, in line with international laws governing the exchange of information.
Last night, Mick Gorrill, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: ‘We have been made aware that the personal details of some 35,689 England fans have been unlawfully traded for profit.
‘The information relates to fans who bought tickets for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
‘We have contacted FIFA regarding the allegations and will be liaising with the organisation further as we move forward with an investigation.
‘The unlawful trade in people’s personal information is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act. We have launched a full investigation. As part of our investigation we will be working together with international data protection authorities.
‘We expect to be able to provide more details as our investigation develops, including advice for those who believe that their details may have been involved in this incident.’
Yesterday, FIFA refused to discuss the inquiry other than to say: ‘We are currently investigating this case and have no further comments at this stage.’
The Mail on Sunday understands that the ICO has already questioned UK-based firm Byrom which, through a foreign subsidiary, had the official contract to provide tickets for the South African World Cup and several other tournaments.
The firm was not involved in the ticketing arrangements in Germany but was questioned after it was claimed that an unnamed employee was behind the illegal data breach.
The staff member is said to have offered the information for sale in Norway. Last night a spokeswoman for the company said it was ‘fully co-operating with the ICO investigation’.
But she added: ‘We have studied the contents of this database and we can categorically say that we have never had access to this information in any form. It is not our database.
‘Ticketing arrangements at the German World Cup, unlike other tournaments, were not undertaken by our firm.’
The data breach first emerged in Scandinavia where the details of 50,000 Swedish and Norwegian fans were offered for sale.
Among the details were those of former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and former Minister of Integration Jens Orback.
Mr Orback said: ‘I don’t like this at all. As a former government minister, this is also a security issue.’
But it quickly emerged that the data breach was far more widespread and included the details of nearly 20,000 American citizens, 36,000 Swiss nationals, 42,000 Portuguese and 36,000 Dutch fans, as well as thousands more supporters from Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Croatia.