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Database with info on 2.2 million suspected criminals finds its way online

A database used by businesses to assess risks associated with their clients has been leaked online. The 2.2 million records on offer are used by 49 of the world’s 50 largest banking organizations — but there are concerns that inaccuracies in the information could cause problems.

Thomson Reuters maintains the World-Check Risk Screening service to provide financial institutions, law enforcement and intelligence agencies with information about potential clients. The service is intended to brief companies about individuals and organizations that are suspected of links with various forms of criminal activity.

The service monitors more than 500 watch lists sourced from all over the world to supply this information, with some 6000 clients across 170 countries paying for access.

Thomson Reuters claims that its information often edges ahead of top government watch lists. “In 2012 alone we identified more than 180 entities before they appeared on the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list based on reputable sources identifying relevant risks,” reads a statement on the company’s website.

However, there have been some criticisms of the World-Check Risk Screening service related to erroneous records. A number of activists and even charitable organizations have been incorrectly added to the terrorism subcategory of the database, according to a report from Vice. These inaccurate records could be very destructive now that the list has been leaked.

The leak was discovered by security expert Chris Vickery, who claims that the list is now accessible without login credentials, according to a report from the BBC. However, Vickery stresses that this unprotected copy of the database was not hosted by Thomson Reuters.

“We are grateful to Chris Vickery for bringing this to our attention, and immediately took steps to contact the third party responsible – as a result we can confirm that the third party has taken down the information,” said company spokesman David Crundwell.