Gambling companies are using data collection firms to help them target problem gamblers, an independent investigation has revealed.
After racking up £80,000 in debt, a man known as James sought to investigate how he had been allowed to do this, and submitted a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) to SkyBet to learn what data they held on him.
Information from Iovation, one of three data harvesting companies that SkyBet uses, revealed it held almost 19,000 separate items of data on him, carefully tracking his use of the operator’s services.
One of the other companies, Signal, which collates data for marketing purposes, categorised James as a high-value customer based on his data. It also knew he chased losses – when a gambler continues to bet to try and recoup money they have lost – and even the percentage of SkyBet emails he opened.
SkyBet says that it uses a number of third-party companies to collect data on its behalf for marketing, fraud prevention and age verification. It claims that it does not have access to all of the information that James was provided with as a result of submitting the various DSARs.
TransUnion, which owns Signal and other data harvesting companies, also failed to take responsibility, saying its data collection complies with “relevant legal and regulatory frameworks”.
It comes as the Government considers how to reform gambling legislation to make it “fit for the digital age”.
‘Paid in privacy’
BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan commented: “To a much greater extent than is generally acknowledged, the price of the free and open web that we have today is paid in privacy. Our every click, open and scroll is a signal that creates an item of data. Algorithms then sift and sort that data to build very detailed profiles of us, which in turn allows us to be targeted.”
He continued: “With good reason, there has been a big focus in recent years on those institutions who together comprise Big Tech. But the harvesting of our data trails is something that a bewilderingly vast assortment of companies specialise in – including gambling companies.
“It’s only when you try to find out what these companies know about you – as ‘James’ did – that you discover how much of yourself you’ve handed over.”
The Christian Institute’s Head of Research Dave Greatorex said: “Stories like these demonstrate how big a mistake the 2005 Gambling Act was. It has led to a free-for-all that must be reined in.
“There have been far too many of these examples of problem gamblers spending vast sums of money on gambling sites, including tragic cases of those who have been enticed to spend more through ‘VIP’ schemes.
“It would be negligent to rely on gambling operators to ‘protect customers’ using the same mechanisms that they have used to cause so much harm. The outcome of the Government’s gambling review must include strong regulation of betting firms.”