ICO backs data sharing plan to tackle problem gambling

betting2The Information Commissioner’s Office has joined the war on problem gamblers by backing proposals for the financial sector to use classic data insight techniques to share information with betting firms to help to protect customers from unaffordable losses.

In a letter to industry body UK Finance, the ICO has confirmed that data protection law does not stop gambling companies from conducting financial risk checks on customers, and that lenders can share people’s personal information – but this must be done transparently and proportionately.

The data regulator has been working with the Gambling Commission on the design of privacy safeguards for financial risk checks.

Gambling companies will only be permitted to use personal information they receive solely for the purpose of financial risk checks, and customers will need to be told that checks on their financial health may be undertaken where they incur significant losses.

The ICO has also lent its support to plans for gambling companies to share information about customers identified as high risk who are gambling across multiple sites. The regulator has set out its advice to the Betting & Gaming Council on the necessary safeguards required to share personal data between different operators.

Following the completion of the Sandbox pilot, the data-sharing project – now known as GamProtect – will be implemented across the gambling industry with support from the Betting & Gaming Council.

ICO executive director of regulatory risk Stephen Almond said: “Problem gambling has devastating consequences for people’s finances, relationships and health. We are keen to see the financial sector share data to protect people from unaffordable losses and spiralling debt.

“Data sharing can be a force for good, enabling organisations to protect people from gambling-related harm. We’ve been pleased to work with the Betting & Gaming Council through our Regulatory Sandbox to help them safeguard gamblers while upholding their rights to privacy.”

Whether this will be enough to stop firms marketing to these individuals remains to be seen; the UK Gambling Commission has already issued huge fines to Sky Betting & Gaming, 888, Bet Victor and LeoVegas for targeting problem gamblers.

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