A 2014 version of the World-Check database containing more than 2.2 million records of people with suspected terrorist, organized crime, and corruption links has been leaked online. World-Check, which is run by Thomson-Reuters, is used by 4,500 institutions, 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks and by over 300 government and intelligence agencies.
Security researcher Chris Vickery originally discovered the leak, and told media outlets that even after notifying Thomson-Reuters of its location the database is still available online. “As far as I know, the original location of the leak is still exposed to the public internet,” Vickery said. “Thomson Reuters is working feverishly to get it secured.”
World-Check is intended for use as ‘an early warning system for hidden risk’ and works by combining records from hundreds of separate terror and crime suspect and watch lists into a simple, searchable database format. However, as World-Check is completely unregulated, it has come under fire for bias, and for the validity of its sources.
Additionally, information is not available to the general public who may not be aware that they are on such a list, but whose bank accounts and business transactions may be cancelled without warning or recourse. Banks are not required by law to provide consumers with a reason for account closures, and World-Check has a binding secrecy clause for users of the service.
In February 2016 it was revealed that several respected, internationally-renowned anti-terrorism activists had been included in the World-Check database as ‘heightened-risk indivduals’, including the Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, who described his inclusion on the World-Check list as “inaccurate, bigoted garbage.”
He said, “You can imagine how many innocent individuals and organizations have suffered at the hands of World-Check and similar entities with no recourse.”
Also included was UK politician Maajid Nawaz, respected UK political adviser and founder of the counter-extremist think tank Quilliam. “I have consulted to every UK Prime Minister from Tony Blair onwards on how our society can best address Islamist extremism,” he said. “If true, compiling lists of ‘undesirable individuals’ by name, especially if such lists are not open to public scrutiny or regular updating, is a terrible move to adopt by any organization.”