Light Sentence For Data Thief Sparks Outrage

When bingo players log on to their favorite online bingo site they are well aware that they are gambling. Bingo is a random game of chance and every player has an equal chance of winning any individual bingo game. While bingo players know they are participating in a gambling activity there is one thing they do not wish to gamble; their personal information and bingo site details. The recent conviction and sentence of Marc Ben-Ezra has drawn sharp criticism from government officials and the internet bingo industry. Ben-Ezra was found guilty of three breaches of the Data Protection Act.

Ben Ezra was given a three year non custodial sentence and was ordered to repay damages of £1,700 and a paltry fine of £830.80. Ben Ezra stole the details of 65,000 bingo players and offered them for sale to contacts in the online gaming industry. Fortunately some of those contacted by Ben Ezra turned him in and an investigation was started by bingo operator Cashcade and a private detective agency. Ben Ezra sent a series of emails containing the personal details of 400 Foxy bingo players and offered more player details for sale.

The ICO managed to track down Ben Ezra through his email accounts which led investigators to his father in law’s business address. Ben Ezra was arrested and charged. Many in the internet bingo industry and government expressed outrage at the lack of significant punishment. Information Commissioner Christopher Graham stated “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 also commented on the profitability of data theft and told reporters “This case shows that the unlawful trade in personal information is unfortunately still a thriving and lucrative activity. Mr. Ben-Ezra sold people’s personal details on an industrial scale, making in the region of £ 25 000 at the expense of the tens of thousands of bingo players whose privacy he compromised, and who he exposed to the nuisance of being approached by rival betting websites and, at worst, the risk of identity theft.”

The story first came to public attention through a bingo news source and blog BingoSupermarket. At the time details were not readily available but the blog has been at the forefront of reporting this story. Since data theft can be extremely profitable and there are no real punishments for this crime internet bingo players have cause to be worried. While most internet bingo sites have software in place to protect player transactions and information bingo operators have no real defense against rogue employees. Currently several Members of Parliament are considering new legislation that would increase the penalties for data theft.