Aug 17, 2005 - 2:34:00 PM
Jason Smathers, 25 year old former America Online (AOL) employee, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison today for using his insider position at AOL to harvest millions of AOL email addresses, and then selling them to a spammer for $28,000.
"People use e-mail as a primary measure of communication these days," stated U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. "Companies need to preserve the integrity of the information they have."
In a letter to judge Hellerstein, Smathers pleaded for leniency. He described himself as "an outlaw" in the "new frontier" of cyberspace.
Prosecutor David Siegal told the judge "the Internet is not lawless." He estimated that AOL suffered a loss of 10 cents for every 1,000 spam e-mails sent to subscribers.
Although vigorously denied by AOL for years, it's long been suspected that at least one person inside AOL has been selling confidential information on AOL users for years. Many Embedded Engineers have long been suspicious of AOL, which is one reason Embedded Engineers have avoided their services.
For years, new members to AOL have noticed that they have received spam almost immediately and before providing their email addresses to anyone. Industry insiders have long suspected that an AOL employee had been selling email addresses to spammers. Microsoft's Hotmail has long suffered the same fate.
Smathers will surrender to a prison in Pensacola, Florida on September 19.
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