LookSee Wellington privacy breach forces website shutdown
Personal details of tech experts who applied for free trips to Wellington for job interviews could have been seen by others.
Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (Wreda) says a privacy breach forced it to shut down the LookSee website on Thursday.
Aimed to help boost the ranks of mid and senior level IT experts in Wellington, the initiative will fly 100 jobseekers to Wellington for job interviews.
It quickly gained global media attention, with publications including Forbes and The Daily Mail writing stories. Thousands of people registered on the site, including some who hold senior roles at major tech brands, including Facebook, Google and Amazon.
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However, on Friday evening Wreda confirmed a software problem meant users could potentially view the personal information of others who had registered.
The information could have included personal contact details and attachments, but Wreda said no financial information had been requested.
Wreda chief executive Chris Whelan said the problem was "massively regrettable". An independent company had been hired to conduct a review of how the error took place, and the findings would eventually be made public.
The Privacy Commissioner and the Government's Chief Information Officer had been briefed on the matter.
While Whelan could not be certain of how many people had been affected, so far, 93 people had a problem with the registration form.
In each case it appeared that one person using the website had viewed the information of one other person.
The issue has been identified as a coding error in the platform provider's software, Whelan said.
"Work to fix the issue started immediately which included stopping new registrations," Whelan said.
"At that stage, we understood it was a volume related issue – we had over one million unique visits, over 150,000 people registered an interest, and 12,000 have completed their applications to date.
"Having investigated the issue, at this stage we're only aware of just over 90 people who might have been affected.
"This is a highly regrettable error, however, we have been heartened by the manner in which applicants alerted us, and the goodwill they have shown."
Wreda's immediate focus was to contact the affected applicants, he said.
"We believe this is paramount and we need to quickly explain the issue and apologise for the error.
The website would remain offline until the coding error had been fully addressed, he said.
"We unreservedly apologise to those affected and are confident that the goodwill shown by all means this regrettable situation will not undermine the success of the programme."
LookSee Wellington is a new global talent search initiative, which is ratepayer-backed, aimed at addressing the capital's IT skills shortage.
The 100 successful candidates, who have their flights and accommodation paid for, will attend a series of pre-arranged job interviews with employers who have roles that match their skills.