Aberdeen Press and Journal – Council set to introduce controversial parking app at centre of data breach scandal

As originally published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 20/04/2017

Aberdeen is poised to introduce a controversial parking system which has recently exposed the personal details of hundreds of drivers across the UK.

Motorists who use the current Parking by Phone have been contacted by council chiefs informing them that the authority would be moving to the RingGo app from Friday.

Last week, following an app update, hundreds of customers using the parking tool found other people’s details when they logged into their own accounts.

Last night, privacy groups and opposition politicians raised concerns about the app – with the city’s SNP group saying council chiefs should consider delaying the system.

A high-profile hacking of the local authority’s own website took place in January – with a report to councillors saying that the attack had connotations with the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

Daniel Nesbitt, research director of privacy watchdog Big Brother Watch, said: “The council has to understand of the potential dangers of allowing more data to be collected.

“This may seem like the easy option, but bringing in new ways to gather and store the personal information of citizens will also present new threats.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said that data breaches could “ruin lives”.

He said: “I would expect that council officers are already in touch with the operators of RingGo to ensure that the citizens are protected.”

SNP infrastructure spokesman Michael Hutchison added: “Given the very recent incident that RingGo have experienced with data protection… We cannot ask the public to use an app that might not be properly protecting their data.

“I hope that our officers are seeking urgent assurances at this time and, if those assurances are not forthcoming, then we perhaps should look at delaying this move to using RingGo.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “This incident took place prior to the launch of the system in the city over the coming weekend.

“We are satisfied that RingGo have done everything they can to secure their app and that it is safe for the public to use.”

Cobalt Telephone Technologies, who operate the app, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Although they have previously said: “We believe the actual number of people who have been directly impacted is around 600.

“We take the security of our customers’ data extremely seriously and a full investigation into the root cause is taking place so that this issue will not happen again.”

Aberdeen City Council, head of IT and transformation, Simon Haston said: “We are aware of the incident which took place prior to the launch of the system in the city over the coming weekend.

“We understand that this was due to an internal software update rather than a security issue but we are continuing to seek assurances from RingGo regarding their security and data protection protocols ahead of the launch of system in Aberdeen on Friday.”