Six months ago, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, took effect, threatening companies worldwide with massive fines if they didn’t look after customer data properly. Fresh research suggests it’s making a difference in Europe -- but not so much for U.S. web users.

The personal information of American charity donors, political party supporters, and online shoppers, has continued to quietly leak onto the internet as a result of poor website security practices, new research shows. As many as one in five e-commerce sites in the U.S. are still leaving their customers exposed, Philadelphia-based search marketing company Seer Interactive said Monday.

"If you were one of the 50 largest e-commerce sites you’d think you’d have this under wraps, and that’s the most troubling thing," said Adam Melson, a director at Seer.

Using simple Google searches, similar to methods examined by Seer, Bloomberg was able to access sensitive user information from a wide range of randomly chosen U.S. websites. In one instance, the website of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital had made public the receipt for a donation of hundreds of dollars, including the donor’s full name and address, their method and date of payment, and their email. Bloomberg was able to find similar data in PDF format relating to purchases of sporting goods at the Pine Hills Golf Club in Ohio, which included full names, home addresses and email details, as well as reference numbers for the person’s purchase.

In another instance, email addresses associated with subscriptions to newsletters about cancer and HIV could be found by Bloomberg on WebMD Health Corp.’s Medscape website. CVS Health Corp. was found to be revealing email addresses of subscribers to its newsletters.

In a further case, the full name and details of an individual who completed a survey on the donation page of U.S. President Donald Trump’s website could be seen in a URL indexed by Google.

These examples were discovered by requesting results for terms such as “firstname,” “print,” or “” and restricting the queries to subdomains on company web addresses, such as “” (To protect affected users, Bloomberg is not publishing the specific URLs it has seen to be exposing data.)

The vulnerability can be caused by a number of basic errors, one of which is that if a website lets a user share a transaction on social media -- such as to promote a charitable donation -- a search engine can see their post, and from there index the original web page, whether the user knows this or not. With no security protection in place, these pages are available to anyone.

A spokesman for CVS said "a very small number" of customer email addresses were visible this way “when some customers shared content from their ‘unsubscribe’ emails to online forums to support other users,” but that no other personal information was accessible.

Amy Lahey, chief information security officer at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, said that the data exposure was limited to two donation transaction records -- one dating back to 2015 and one back to 2017 -- and that additional security controls have now been put in place.

First « 1 2 3 » Next