Researchers attempted last year to use government data to build a comprehensive database of data breach incidents.

The researchers have now published a paper going through the trials and tribulations of attempting to collect such data, offering some suggestions for the U.S. government for standardizing the reporting of data breach incidents.

The paper is a good read for anyone interested in the challenges of collecting data in this area, and how governments can improve data collection and reporting.

From the paper:

The initial goal of our research was to present a comprehensive database of data breaches of personal information that took place in 2018 and 2019. This information was to be drawn from press reports, industry studies, and reports from regulatory agencies across the world. This article identified the top 430 largest data breach incidents among more than 10,000 data breach incidents.

In the process, we encountered many complications, especially regarding the lack of standardization of reporting. This article should be especially interesting to the readers of JDIQ because it describes both the range of data quality and consistency issues found as well as what was learned from the database created.

The database that was created, available at, shows that the number of data records breached in those top 430 incidents increased from around 4B in 2018 to more than 22B in 2019. This increase occurred despite the strong efforts from regulatory agencies across the world to enforce strict rules on data protection and privacy, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect in Europe in May 2018. Such regulatory effort could explain the reason why there is such a large number of data breach cases reported in the European Union when compared to the U.S. (more than 10,000 data breaches publicly reported in the U.S. since 2018, while the EU reported more than 160,0001 data breaches since May 2018). However, we still face the problem of an excessive number of breach incidents around the world.

This research helps to understand the challenges of proper visibility of such incidents on a global scale. The results of this research can help government entities, regulatory bodies, security and data quality researchers, companies, and managers to improve the data quality of data breach reporting and increase the visibility of the data breach landscape around the world in the future.