UK Information Commissioner Calls For Tougher Penalties For Data Thieves

By now most online bingo players in the UK are aware of the data thefts that took place at a few major online bingo sites. Earlier in the year Marc Ben-Ezra offered the sensitive player data for sale. Ben Ezra had stolen information on 65,000 online bingo players.  Using the pseudonym ‘Malcolm Edwards’ Ben Ezra sent emails to contacts in the online gaming industry containing a sample data set on 400 Foxy Bingo players. The emails were reported to Cashcade and an investigation was launched. The private detective agency arranged to purchase the rest of the player data and offered him £1,700 for the information.

During the transaction Ben Ezra said he had data on 404 Gala Coral players from 2008. The detective agency and internet gambling firms contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). An investigation by the ICO led directly to Ben Ezra through his email account that was registered to the business address of Ben Ezra’s father in law. When questioned by the ICO Ben Ezra admitted the offenses. Information commissioner Christopher Graham complimented the actions of the gaming companies and also said that there is a need for stricter penalties for such offenses.

Technology is rapidly advancing and unfortunately governments and law enforcement agencies have not kept up with the latest technological advances. For his actions Ben Ezra received a slap on the wrist. Ben Ezra was ordered to pay his former employer £1,700 and court costs of £830.80. He also received a non custodial sentence of three years. The light penalties raised the ire of Information commissioner Christopher Graham. Graham told reporters “I am grateful to Cashcade Limited and Gala Coral for their work in exposing this unlawful practice. However, we still don’t have a punishment that fits the crime. The ICO continues to push for the government to activate the 2008 legislation that would allow courts to consider other penalties like community service orders or the threat of prison.”

Graham’s desire for stricter penalties for data theft has received support from several members of Parliament on the Justice Select Committee. MP’s have backed calls from ICO for jail sentences for data thieves. In September Graham addressed the committee and stated “It beggars belief that, when more and more organisations have a right to our personal information, to access and process it, the courts do not have the full range of potential sentences to deal with an offence which can involve any of us. This is not about celebrities’ hospital appointments. This has the potential to wreck people’s lives. Parliament cannot just sit back and watch this sort of thing happen.”

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