BP has admitted to losing a laptop that contained the details of thousands of people who had made claims following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.
The firm said that the laptop, which was password-protected, was lost during "business-related travel" and had contained personal information of about 13,000 people.
The personal details included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and social security numbers, all of which were stored in a spreadsheet, according to BP.
The company added that the loss of the laptop had been immediately reported to the police and its own security teams, but stressed that there was no evidence that it had been accessed or compromised.
"The lost laptop was immediately reported to law enforcement authorities and BP security, but has not been located despite a thorough search," it said in a statement.
"There is no evidence that the laptop or data was targeted or that anyone's personal data has in fact been compromised or accessed in any way. Our security team continues to monitor the situation very closely, and we are still in touch with authorities in an attempt to recover the laptop."
The firm has sent letters of notice to the individuals who were affected, and said it is providing them with free credit monitoring services that could mitigate any data loss or theft.
"BP takes the protection of personal information very seriously and deeply regrets the loss of the laptop," it added.
This recent incident shows that all organisations are susceptible to the type of data losses that seem to continually befall government institutions.
Chris McIntosh, chief executive at encryption firm Stonewood, said it is increasingly important that all bodies secure their devices and documents.
"Leaving sensitive data unencrypted is bad enough. When you factor in the legal importance of the data, and the scale of the event which made BP record it in the first place, it becomes inexplicable," he said.
"This loss reminds us that it's not just the public sector that can come under fire for mishandling data – even the largest of businesses can show inexcusable carelessness with individuals' sensitive information."
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