Dubai: Emirates Literature Foundation has rubbished claims of a data breach, reportedly exposing the personal details of people who have signed up for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature that kicks off at Jameel Art Centre in Dubai on January 29.
Spread across three weekends, with talks and interactive sessions taking place at different venues, the region’s premier literary event will feature authors from various genres — including literature, arts, science, current affairs, films and food.
Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Booker nominees Avni Doshi and Oyinkan Braithwaite and internationally acclaimed authors Elif Shafak, Amin Maalouf and Lemn Sissay are among the star attractions.
Even as tickets to the event went up for sale on Thursday, a United States-based company has sent out mass emails, offering to sell the personal details of 15,000 individuals who have registered for the festival.
“We will deliver you 15,000 visitors/registrants’ contacts from Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2021. Each record of the list contains contact name (with first name and last name, email address, company name, URL/website, phone number, title/designation and country). Offered price: $349,” says the email from James Brooks, senior marketing analyst for AVA Rapport, a data-controlled brand and service provider based in Delware, US.
In order to uncover the racket, Gulf News contacted AVA Rapport posing as a potential buyer. Within hours, the company wrote back, offering to sell the “tele-verified” personal details of “15,000 visitors/registrant contacts” from the literature fest. It even raised an invoice asking to wire the money ($349 or Dh1,284) to Ava Rapport’s account at City National Bank in New York. Brooks said the “high quality and responsive data” would be delivered within “two business days after processing the payment” in “CSV or excel format”. He said their “accuracy and deliverability rate” was more than 95 per cent. “The data could be used for multiple campaigns and emails”, the email said.
Following an alert by Gulf News, Emirates Literature Foundation, which governs the festival, launched a probe into the matter. “The Emirates Literature Foundation has been made aware that a firm is purporting to have access to confidential data, including the personal details of individuals who have engaged with Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2021,” the Foundation said in an email to Gulf News on Sunday.
“Emirates Literature Foundation has investigated this claim and can confirm that there has been no data breach and the details of those who have engaged with the festival have not been compromised. We take the protection of personal information extremely seriously and have both technology and processes in place to safeguard our community,” the statement added.
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Parallel investigations by Gulf News revealed that Ava Rapport operates from a virtual office in Dover, Delware, and its website — hosted on a server in Germany — is less than two years old.