“…the Louisiana Technology Council says …many hotels make little or no attempt to protect your private information on their public PCs…in business centers…”
“That information will live on that computer until such time that it’s deleted,” said Lewis. “You and I both know that it’s really never deleted. It can be recovered and if someone comes in with software, they may be able to get that data off the PC.”
Eyewitness News sent an intern into about a dozen New Orleans area hotels to search for documents and other information left on public computers after the user logged off. Among the things we found: invoices; insurance papers; tickets to a show at the Lakefront Arena; a certificate from the Texas Department of Insurance and even someone’s monthly pay statement.
Most of the documents contained people’s names, addresses and other sensitive information about the user. “I was amazed that you were able to print out some very confidential and private information from a business center location,” said Lewis.
“If somebody wants to open up a new credit card and in this day and age of identity theft, having that kind of information out there is real frightening,” said attorney Daren Sarphie.
He says in March, the client got a disturbing phone call from a guest at the International House Hotel in downtown New Orleans. The guest told him all of the his private information, including Social Security number, birth date, home address and phone number was contained on a document stored on the hotel computer for all to see.
“The person that accessed, that found this file had just gone to hotel to book plane reservations to go back home to Dallas and in the process, he’s just playing around on the computer and he accessed this directory and is able to pull up all kinds of stuff, said Sarphie.
“You’d think that the hotels at least would have a system in place that they would erase the hard drive on a weekly basis or a daily basis to make sure there are no temporary files saved on that computer,” said Sarphie.
The information we found was easy to access on the computers. Most of it was stored in the PC’s temporary Internet files, saved in the documents folder or waiting to be deleted in the computer’s recycle bin.
The owner of the International House Hotel says it is his hotel policy to purge the public computer’s desk top of any documents and public files every 24-hours. But, he says it is a public computer and people need to be mindful to log out of personal accounts and delete personal documents before leaving the computer.