What is the difference between a “data leak” and a “data breach” and why is this distinction important to you as an enterprise?

What is the difference between a “data leak” and a “data breach”? Did you know that there is a difference between a “data leak” and a “data breach”? Let’s talk about it and about why this distinction is important to your enterprise?

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You probably can recall that Mark Zuckerberg had to testify before Congress regarding the Cambridge Analytica Data Leak for improperly sharing the data of up to 87 million users to target (aka influence) voters in the 2016 presidential elections in the USA. I know, old news, still a prominent example of a data leak (more here).

What is the difference between a “data leak” and a “data breach”?

Recently, in May of this year, Toyota announced that information on customers in some countries in Oceania and Asia, excluding Japan, may have been publicly accessible from October 2016 to May 2023. Customer information that may have been accessible externally included names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and vehicle identification and registration numbers, the company said.

The incident follows an announcement by the company that the vehicle data of 2.15 million users in Japan, or almost the entire customer base who had signed up for its main cloud service platforms since 2012, had been publicly available for a decade because of human error.

A Data Leak is therefore an incident which occurs from within the enterprise, through the intentional or negligent actions or inactions of the enterprise (its employees) by the exposure of a vulnerability or information. The data leak is from an internal source.

This differs from a data breach.

A Data Breach is the term that is more commonly used when discussing the exposure of confidential data from an external source, outside of the enterprise. It is generally an attack on or the accessing of the data by an unauthorized user(hackers or someone who can coerce the company into providing them with access to information they shouldn’t have, or someone who simply steals the data for their own benefit, to further sell it or otherwise exploit it).

While both forms raise legal concerns regarding privacy rights of individuals/end users affected and confidentiality of sensitive commercial information on a large scale, the legal obligations and liability your enterprise faces in each scenario differ, as well as the ramifications and aftermath for you as an organization. Book a call with our privacy expert, Av. Olivia Marcu-Iordanescu, LL.M., CIPP/E, to assess and understand what are the preventive steps you can take today to tackle these issues proactively and diligently, by minimising your legal and compliance risks.

In the interview I am streaming tomorrow with dr. Karol Kulasinski we discuss one particular aspect of data leaks and the challenges that enterprises face in dealing with the increased use of large language models by their employees.

About my guest: Dr. Karol Kulasinski

Karol Kulasinski – EESA portrait.

Dr. Karol Kulasinski

is a highly accomplished Senior Data Scientist with 14+ years of experience, holding a Ph.D. in Computational Physics. He is proficient in over 20 computer languages and frameworks and has a rich portfolio of research papers, data projects, and conference participation. His educational background includes an ongoing MBA from Kozminski University and a postdoc at University of California, Berkeley.

Karol is recognized for his ability to blend academic excellence with industry expertise, delivering innovative AI-driven solutions and pushing the boundaries of technology in government-funded projects. In 2023, Karol assumed the role of CEO and Tech Lead at Fractile, a cutting-edge Polish AI startup that provides an enterprise SaaS solution to use LLMs in a secure way. His passion for bridging AI with real-world business outcomes makes him a valuable collaborator in developing advanced solutions.

Connect with Karol Kulanski

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