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A data leak is when your private info goes where it shouldn’t. It could be intentional, due to a security breach, or it being exposed elsewhere by other people. It can also involve data that might otherwise be public but harvested and compiled into a database, and releasing it can still be damaging.

The source of a data leak can be a cyberattack, investigation, data mining, or deliberate effort from insiders. Data leaks are still a form of breach of privacy.

The leaked data could still involve damaging confidential information, such as personal information, medical information, financial information, intellectual properties, trade secrets, political records, etc. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Data leaks can happen by accident or by intention.
  • Data leaks involve the release of confidential data.
  • Data leaks can be more dangerous than data breaches.
  • Whether you were affected or are just exploring options, you can check your eligibility for compensation.

Data Leak Definition

A data leak is the intentional or unintentional exposure of sensitive, confidential, or protected information to unauthorized individuals or the public. While sometimes, leaks are associated with journalistic endeavors (for example, WikiLeaks), in this context, we are talking about personal information that is shared with unapproved persons. 

Even a list of sneakily acquired email addresses or phone numbers can expose millions of people to spam, scams, or exploitation. 

Once targets are exposed, criminals and opportunists may be able to begin data linking, combining pieces of seemingly harmless data to create a picture of someone’s identity, thus making them vulnerable to scams and social engineering, or gaining direct access to their accounts for fraud. Sometimes, this data is used for demographic profiling and finding targets to harass or threaten for discriminatory reasons.  

Often, leaked personal data is traded on the dark web or among data-driving companies to utilize it for unsavory purposes. Once exposed, this private data continually percolates and you may be a choice target for many years. 

Types of Data Leaks

Accidental Disclosure 

  • When information is inadvertently shared due to human error, such as someone sending or mass replying to emails, publishing to the public view a confidential post, or mistakenly configuring privacy settings. 
  • In emails, “cc:” shows the emails of all recipients, while “bcc:” hides recipients’ email addresses.
  • Most social media posts can be set to public, private, or for followers only.  

Unauthorized Access

  • When information is acquired via unauthorized access to private data through the exploitation of software vulnerabilities or lack of encryption. 
  • When eavesdropping on data being sent or leaving accounts logged in so that others can access it.

Third-party sharing

  • When the personal data you allow an organization to have is then shared with a third party without your knowledge or consent.
  • You have not interacted physically with that third party at all and have no knowledge of who or what they are doing with your data.

Data Harvesting

  • When data is collected or scraped from public sources without your consent, and then compiled into databases that can be used or sold for various purposes.
  • Similar to the above, it is however technically not illegal to compile publically available data.

Publication of Private Data 

  • When information that is supposed to be private or confidential is released to online public spaces, like forums and social media. 
  • Sometimes, data can be held for a ransom with the threat of mass disclosure.

Is there any compensation for data leaks?

It’s common for large-scale data leaks to result in compensation for affected individuals. The exact data leak settlement amount may vary based on factors like the user’s location and the extent of the data breach.

Data Leak vs. Others

Data leaks are known by various names, which can make things confusing. Some of these names mean the same thing, while others are a bit different. We explain and compare these terms below.

Data Leak Examples

Check out these real-world examples to get a more practical understanding of how data leaks work and what we can learn from these examples. 

question | Data leak definition

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Am I Affected?

If you were affected, you should receive a data breach notification letter within 72 hours of its discovery. But, there have already been cases when these notices don’t get sent out at all, either as part of a cover-up to protect the company’s image or to avoid identifying users who might be entitled to compensation. So in case of a data leak, it’s a smart move to fill out the form and join the claim regardless. 

What To Do?

Whether you believe you were affected or are just exploring your options, you can quickly and easily check your eligibility and compensation amount with our quick data breach checker. In under two minutes, you’ll know how much money you can get and will be able to claim compensation. Give it a try!


Data leaks are no less dangerous than data breaches. A privacy leak can be harder to detect until it is too late. 

It can happen by accident or by intent. Exposure is much wider compared to a targeted data breach, and once made public, there will be no control over who has access to that information. It can then be the first step to even more serious data breaches, identity theft, or scams and hacks.

question | Data leak definition

Are you missing out on other data breach payouts? Try our compensation calculator and find out now!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to minimize or prevent Data breach impact?

Using virtual payment cards with spending limits and unique email addresses for different services can greatly reduce the risks of data breaches. Disposable virtual cards protect your financial details, while custom email addresses (like “”) help identify compromised services. These strategies add security layers, minimizing the impact of breaches on your personal and financial data.

What to do after a data breach?

In case of a data breach, promptly change your passwords on the affected accounts, making them strong and unique. Activate two-factor authentication for added security. Monitor your financial statements and credit reports for any unusual activity. Alert your bank or credit card provider about potential fraud. Be cautious of phishing scams following the breach and consider a credit freeze. Finally, report the incident to the appropriate authorities.

What is a Data breach notice?

A data breach notice is an official alert sent by an organization to individuals whose personal data, including potentially compromised passwords, may have been exposed in a security breach. Such a notice can often follow warnings from services like Apple or Google indicating that “this password appeared in a data leak.” It details the nature of the breach, affected data types, potential risks, and the organization’s remedial actions. The notice advises on protective measures, such as changing passwords and monitoring credit reports to mitigate harm.

Can I sue, and how to join a class action lawsuit?

Yes, you can sue for a data breach. With Remunzo, joining an active class action lawsuit is easy. Check your eligibility on our platform, and if your case is active, you can join the lawsuit. Remunzo handles all legal proceedings and negotiations for a settlement. These processes can take some time, but we keep you updated throughout. Use our Quick Data Leak Checker to see if you qualify to join and claim compensation.

When will I get paid the data breach settlement?

The time it takes to receive a data breach settlement payment varies, often taking several months after a settlement is reached. Factors like case complexity, number of claimants, and legal procedures affect the timeline. Remunzo will keep you informed about the settlement progress, but patience is key as these processes can be lengthy.


  1. Situational Awareness and Incident Response | CISA [Internet]. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency CISA. Available from:
  2. Data leak exposes tens of millions of private records from corporations and government agencies. CNN Business [Internet]. 2021 Aug 24; Available from:
  3. Ben-Sasson H, Greenberg R. 38TB of data accidentally exposed by Microsoft AI researchers [Internet]. 2023. Available from:
  4. What is data loss prevention (DLP)? | Microsoft Security [Internet]. Available from:


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