A former employee of Verizon has recently pleaded guilty to selling customer data by way of accessing an unauthorized computer during his time of employment with the wireless service provider. Over a five year period from 2009 to 2014, the employee known as Daniel Traeger is said to have received approximately $10,000 for selling customer data whilst he worked for Verizon in Birmingham, Alabama. The buyer of the data has not yet been named but is said to be a private investigator.
This report is yet another example of customer data being leaked and it's also not the first time it has occurred at Verizon. This new report will only add to the growing concern over data privacy. Traeger gained access to one computer that he was unauthorized to use in order to access the relevant data about customer calls. In addition to that, he used a Verizon system called the ‘Real Time Tool’ to identify location data about customers, which he is said to have then recorded into a spreadsheet and sold to the same buyer. It is not confirmed how many or which Verizon customers are affected, or how the data may have been used.
It is reported that Traeger was initially receiving $50 per month for the data he was providing, but that it increased over time to $750 per month by 2013. He pleaded guilty to the charge of accessing an unauthorized computer as part of a plea deal. He could face up to 5 years in prison for the offense but could be significantly less due to cooperating with authorities. This issue further highlights the current difficulties facing both individuals and companies in safeguarding personal data. Sufficient safeguards need to be in place, but customer data is also extremely valuable to service providers as well as to third parties. It isn’t clear in this case whether the data was anonymized in any way, but that might be a best-case scenario. To speculate, it may be that the buyer of the data was even intent on the information for a specific individual. Whatever the motive or purpose, this won't be the last case of customer data being leaked to unintended recipients.