The rise of big data in the hospitality industry is ushering in a new era where striving to achieve a balance between leveraging and protecting data is paramount.

As many hotels use non-anonymized personally identifiable information (PII), data vulnerabilities increase exponentially and many hoteliers have yet to embrace key strategies for protecting this type of data.

A recent Hospitality Upgrade Magazine article pointed out that, “The real threat to information security is what is known as a PICNIC (problem in chair not in computer.)”

Although hotels use firewalls, antivirus systems and other security technologies, severe information security breaches keep happening and the problems are getting worse, not better, because of the PICNIC problem.

Essentially, hotel staff and outside contractors have access to non-anonymized data and without proper training, which can jeopardize both the guest and the hotel. Educating hotel staff about privacy issues is the first step in ensuring a culture of security.

In addition, guests are rightly concerned about data security.  According to the article, Forrester Research found that one in three consumers were concerned about companies having access to their behavioral data. More than 40 percent said they had stopped short of completing a transaction on a website because of something they read in a privacy policy.

To address the issue, the Hospitality Upgrade magazine will be doing a series that will cover the crime of identity theft and how it impacts both victims and the hospitality industry. We urge all hoteliers to follow the series in order to stay on top of the latest techniques and legislation to keep their guests’ data private and safe.  Not only will guests appreciate it, but hoteliers can also avoid many PR and social media headaches that come with a data breach.