[Photo courtesy of ESA]
Gaming

ESA Leaks Thousands of Games Journalists’ Personal Information

A spreadsheet of over 2,000 video games journalists’ and content creators’ personal information was posted on the E3 website.

What Happened?

Sophia Narwitz, a video games journalist, was the first to bring attention to the spreadsheet. Narwitz posted a video to her YouTube channel that described what the spreadsheet was, how to access it, and what she did once she found out about it.

According to Kotaku, someone sent Narwitz an anonymous email saying they had the spreadsheet. Narwitz said she notified the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) after discovering the spreadsheet herself.

Narwitz posted her YouTube video after notifying the ESA and several games journalists. At the time, Narwitz believed the spreadsheet was no longer available to the public. Narwitz discovered on social media it was still available, even though the ESA removed the link. Narwitz has since posted another video detailing the timeline of events following her initial discovery of the leak.

It Gets Worse

According to Kotaku, an anonymous reporter told the ESA the file was still available, and the ESA deleted the file from the website. The spreadsheet is no longer available to the public through the ESA website.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. While investigating the issue, the ESA discovered the same problem occurred for journalists who attended E3 in 2004 and 2006.

ESA Statement

At first, the ESA blamed the leak on a bug in their website instead of its own negligence. Once it became obvious this was due to their mistakes, they changed their story. The ESA released this statement regarding the leaks:

“On August 2, the ESA learned that a confidential file containing the contact information of registered E3 2019 media badge holders could be accessed by individuals other than authorized users. The file was located in a password-protected section of the E3 website, which was intended for exhibitors only.

“As soon as we learned of this issue, we took immediate action. We removed the file from the website, we disabled access to the site’s exhibitor portal, and we notified those affected. In addition, we launched a process to locate and remove private and public caches and other publicly-accessible online locations that contained the file.

“In the course of our investigation, we learned that media contact lists from E3 2004 and 2006 were cached on a third-party internet archive site. These were not files hosted on ESA’s servers or on the current website. We took immediate steps to have those files removed, and we received confirmation today that all files were taken down from the third-party site. We also immediately notified those persons impacted. General attendee information was not affected in this situation.

“We are working with our partners, outside counsel, and independent experts to investigate what led to this situation and to enhance our security efforts. We are still investigating the matter to gain a full understanding of the facts and circumstances that led to the issue.”

Final Nail in the Coffin?

While there are no lawsuits yet, it is expected that the ESA will face multiple lawsuits for its negligence.  With the predictions that E3 will be dead soon, this is the last thing the ESA needs. Why would anyone trust the ESA with their information again. Major companies are already skipping E3, now journalists, content creators, and regular gamers might start skipping too.

After a not-so-great E3 and a major leak like this, the Electronic Entertainment Expo’s death could be sooner than expected.

Zandt Durham

I love video games, my cats, and my fianceé (not necessarily in that order). Here to report on, review, and play some games. I main Ganondorf in Smash Ultimate.

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