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Hotel Chocolat wipes up mess

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An online choccy emporium has defended its response to a privacy glitch that left customer details unwrapped and exposed to the world.

Hotel Chocolat head of customer experience Lynn Setchell said she was "absolutely appalled" to learn of the potential data protection problem that occured because of a security flaw on the company's website.

She claimed the chocolate seller responded promptly with a fix once it had been alerted to the issue.

But Setchell accepted that Hotel Chocolat had failed to initially spot the problem and that the first it knew about the security flaw was when El Reg reader Angel Johnson contacted its customer services via email.

She also confirmed that it was unable to determine how long the data had been viewable on its website.

According to the latest email from Angel, Hotel Chocolat had been displaying the sensitive information for quite some time.

"I wrote about it on my blog and one of my commenters said that he had pointed it out to them before and it hadn't been fixed, so he only orders by telephone from them now," she said.

The software used by the company was not an in-house product and had been "bought in good faith", said Setchell, with the understanding that the website would be secure at all times.

Hotel Chocolat is now "fully testing the website's security and taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again".

Setchell also went to great pains to point out that no customers' financial details had been exposed and was frustrated we didn't talk to her. (Actually, we made five phonecalls to Hotel Chocolat HQ)

Explaining her unavailability, Setchell said the team had failed to deal with the seriousness of the issue and that staff training was required.

When requesting Setchell's direct telephone number, she asked us not to publish it on El Reg. Not a problem, as we wouldn't want to come potentially unstuck with the Data Protection Act now would we? ®

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