Privacy Ref Blog

Human Errors Will Create Privacy Issues

Regardless of the technology you put in place, the safeguards you have implemented, and the training you have provided, ultimately the success of your privacy program relies on the individuals in your organization. The most recent example of this came at the expense of the US National Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT).

What happened to the USWNT?

In full disclosure, I am an avid soccer fan (football for those of you outside the US). I regularly attend the US Men’s teams matches, follow the Women’s team, and am a paying supporter of US Soccer. This organization has let me down.

There has been an on going contract dispute between US Soccer and the union representing the Women’s team players. Without getting into details of the dispute, the New York Times reports that US Soccer decided to sue the union. Contained in the filing were the names, home addresses, and email address of the players…clearly personal information. The information was provided for 28 players including the stars.

Normally, before being filed, the personal information should have been redacted. To their credit, US Soccer has refiled a redacted version. US Soccer also apologized stating, according to the Times, that this was  a clerical mistake.

Why is this important?

Having personal information revealed puts the subject at risk. At risk for stalking. At risk for phishing. At risk for identity theft. Because these players are in the public eye, this makes matters more extreme from a physical security standpoint. Take a moment to read the player’s descriptions of their fears and heir description of a previous incident in the Times article.

The reaction of US Soccer is what is somewhat disturbing. While the suit was refiled and apologies made, the damage was already done. This is not just a clerical error that can be corrected; there may be (will be) changes needed to these players lives. Will US Soccer be providing identify theft protection (as most businesses would)? Will they be providing some additional security to assist in physically protecting the players?

What can a business learn from this?

Often when a data breach occurs the focus is on stopping further loss of data and following the legal requirements for notification. This organization-centric approach can also be said to take place during training and awareness programs through discussions of policy, process, and procedure.

Taking the time to discuss and consider the impact of personal data loss to those whose information has been lost will provide an a valuable addition to your privacy training and awareness. By personalizing the situation, your staff will have a stronger understanding of why privacy protections are important ultimately resducing human error.

Privacy Ref provides consulting and assessment services to build and improve organizational privacy programs. For more information call Privacy Ref at (888) 470-1528 or email us at

Posted on February 8, 2016 by Bob Siegel
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