UK Children and Student’s Personal Data Leaked To Gambling Companies

Despite the new customer identity verification rules introduced by the UK Gambling Commission, effective May 7, 2019 as part of their three-year plan to ensure a “fairer and safer” gambling environment for the UK customer, the issue of underage gambling is still on the agenda, with gambling operators looking for any possible way to expand on their client base, and some of these as reported by The Times turn to be really scandalous.

How secure is data kept by the Government

The recently published article claiming that gambling operators have somehow gained access to the Learning Records Service, the UK Department for Education /DfE/database that contains personal data such as names, age and address for more than 28 million UK children and students, has stirred the pot regarding safety of personal data and raised issues regarding the effectiveness of the measures aimed at protecting young and underage people from developing gambling habits.

 “I am very shocked to learn that data has been handed over in this way”, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.

Despite the fact that the information of the Learning Records Service, as stated by its privacy rules, is for educational purposes only, the article speculates that a number of business organizations including some betting operators have used access to this database to complete security check procedures on their clients, with one unidentified booking entity able to expand on their young clients base by 15%.

Pushed into a corner, the Department for Education disabled the database and admitted granting access to it for employment screening purposes to Trust Systems Software, an agreement they under the current circumstances already ended, despite their denial of granting data to any third parties, including the supposed perpetrator GB Group.

In addition, the Department for Education notified the Information Commissioner’s Office about this data breach and launched a thorough investigation of their own, promising to leave no stone unturned to find out how the leak had happened.

Industry determined to tackle the issue

Though the extent of the real damage is not clear, as it is not known how many of these 28 million names are actually eligible to gamble since the Learners Records Service contains data for children and students from the age of 14 and above and the legal age for gambling in UK is 18, the current report raises serious issues about underage gambling and the complexity of the matter, and questioned the effectiveness of the recent efforts for social responsibility from the Gambling Commission and for socially responsible advertising from the industry itself through the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Council /BGC/ and namely The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling /IGRG/ Code.

Though the recent initiatives by the BGC for its members to provide £10mln, as part of their Safer Gambling Commitments for a five-year education program for adolescents and their Youth Outreach program for identifying individuals at risk, there is a further need for public debate on the subject of underage gambling and addiction development.

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