Coca-Cola Says 74,000 Affected After Company Laptops Stolen

Bottles of Coca-Cola Move on a Production Line
Coca-Cola's shares fell 1 percent to $38.84 at the close in New York and added 14 percent last year. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest soft drink maker, said data belonging to 74,000 individuals, including thousands of former and current employees, was compromised when company laptops were stolen.

Letters are being sent to 18,000 individuals, as well as third parties, whose names and Social Security numbers were on the computers, the Atlanta-based company told employees yesterday in a memo. Another 56,000 will be sent to those whose driver’s license numbers and other sensitive data were on the machines.

“While we have no indication that your information was misused, we take the protection of personal information security very seriously and will offer free identity theft protection services for one year to all affected,” the company said. “We apologize for any concern or inconvenience this may cause you, and we are taking additional steps to enhance our information protection practices.”

Coca-Cola’s disclosure comes amid heightened consumer concern about corporate data security after recent high-profile incidents. Target Corp., the U.S.’s second-largest discount retailer, said as many as 110 million customer accounts were compromised in a breach during the holiday shopping season. Neiman Marcus Group Ltd. said Jan. 23 that about 1.1 million credit cards may have been compromised in an incident last year.

Coca-Cola’s laptops have since been recovered, according to the memo. Other documents on the computers, such as compensation, ethnicity and addresses, are considered sensitive by company policy, although not under U.S. and Canadian law, it said.

The laptops were retrieved from a former employee who was supposed to maintain or dispose of the equipment, Coca-Cola said. After learning the computers contained personal information in December, Coca-Cola brought in extra technical crews to sort through the data so legal notices could be sent, it said.

The company’s shares fell 1 percent to $38.84 yesterday at the New York close. They increased 14 percent last year.

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