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Celebrity naked picture scandal improves business for Bookitbee in Hever who keep online data in UK and document shredder Shred First UK, Gravesend

By Chris Price

As Rochester-born Kelly Brook had private photos leaked on the internet this month, the issue of protecting data online reared its head again.

Yet the scandal of personal celebrity images being plastered all over the web by hackers has given some companies a chance to flag up a unique selling point.

Online ticketing firm Bookitbee, based in Hever, holds details of thousands of customers whose events it sells entry for – with up to 150 going live a week.

Model Kelly Brook grew up in Rochester and attended Thomas Aveling School
Model Kelly Brook grew up in Rochester and attended Thomas Aveling School

It stores their data securely in the UK, rather than on servers in other countries, which has become a point of pride since the Edward Snowden affair highlighted how hard it can be to keep personal details from prying eyes.

“It’s become quite important,” said co-founder Kenton Ward. “The Snowden affair really highlighted something we already knew about but no one was interested in.

“If you are a professional company and have your data protection policy in place but your information is held in the States, an awful lot of the time you can’t really guarantee that your policy is worth the paper it’s printed on.

“Although their are agreements between the US and Europe about safeharbour for data, they are overshadowed by the Patriot Act which effectively allows the US government to look at information which is held in their territory without too much of a process before it.

Bookitbee founders Kenton Ward, left, and Frank Di Mauro
Bookitbee founders Kenton Ward, left, and Frank Di Mauro

“Particularly the larger event organisers and more corporate ones are very interested in that side of things.”

The protection of UK laws over their servers has certainly reaped its rewards for Bookitbee. Launched in 2011, the company turned over £5m last year and is on course to repeat that with revenues of £2.5m so far this year.

The firm has partnered with Microsoft on its BizSpark scheme, which allows them to choose where data is held throughout the world, depending on where the purchaser has come from.

Mr Ward added: “We get three to five people a day asking us where data is held. We have developed a little bit of a niche among people who have heard we keep all our data in the territory it is collected in.”

Shred First UK shreds 600 tons of paper a year
Shred First UK shreds 600 tons of paper a year

With the media world never too far away from its next documents-left-on-train scandal, there has also been a surge in demand for traditional paper document shredders too.

Shred First UK has been operating from its base above a former betting shop in Gravesend for six years. The company runs three vehicles which collect and shred documents on site, working for clients mainly in Kent and London. It destroys 600 tons of paper a year (which, incidentally, saves 10,000 trees through recycling). It also destroys hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and tapes.

Business development manager Jack Hooker said: “There is so much business out there.

“The industry is growing. It is not an issue that other companies are operating in the same area. Every single sector has confidential waste.”

Shred First UK business development manager Jack Hooker
Shred First UK business development manager Jack Hooker

The stats do not lie. The firm’s turnover has grown by 40% over the last three years. The company has a 100% track record in getting rid of documents securely. Mr Hooker admits he enjoys seeing any scandals on TV where confidential documents are leaked.

He said: “If it wasn’t for people making mistakes like that we wouldn’t be here. It just shows everyone what needs to be done. It makes people aware of our industry.

“If a confidential document is still in a file, it can blow away if it is being taken away to be shredded off site.

“That is why we shred it all on site. Because we do it there, the details are unrecognisable straight away so there is much less risk.”

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