Online gambling industry 'ignores' data protection and privacy laws

By Graeme Burton
06 Aug 2012 View Comments
Cards on the table

Bonus chips
Having opened accounts with around 12 online gambling sites to test their privacy and data protection policies, Davies also tried to close those accounts, requesting full deletion of all his data.

Further reading

Platinum Play locked his account and refused to action his request until he told them why he wanted to close the account: "In order to close it, we will need to know the reason you chose to close your account," it demanded.

32Red's response, though, was a saga in itself. In response to his request, the company offered him "a bonus of 100 chips" and, should that not be a suitable enticement to stay, demanded further private information before his request could be passed on to the "casino manager".

However, it then demanded that he fill, sign and return a "self-exclusion agreement" – a voluntary account suspension for "problem gamblers". And even after this hurdle had been overcome, 32Red refused to delete all his details "for data protection legalities".

After another complaint, 32Red responded: "... we can retain your personal information in our files to resolve disputes, to enforce our user agreement, and to comply with any and all technical and legal requirements, and constraints related to the security, integrity and operation of the site."

Davies concluded: "At the heart of the compliance problem identified here is the game of 'pass the parcel' between data protection regulators and gambling authorities. You could drive a starship through the security and privacy vagueness in the licence conditions, yet the mere existence of those vague conditions is enough to allow data protection authorities off the hook."

The attitude of online gambling sites to the deletion of personal data stands in contrast to the approach taken by online auction giant eBay when Privacy International challenged online retailers over privacy and data protection.

While the ICO refused to take action, eBay ordered its engineers to come up with a solution, and implemented a full account deletion procedure within six months.

Computing has asked the ICO, and a number of online gambling operators, to respond to the points raised by Davies, as well as a number of our own questions.

Their responses will be published on this site when they are received.

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