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ICO greenlights financial data sharing with operators

| By Marese O'Hagan
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has voiced its support for sharing financial data with gambling operators in certain instances, in an effort to curb problem gambling.

This means that the ICO has given the thumbs up to affordability checks. When implemented, these checks will require operators to ask for certain financial details to allow punters to place bets.

Affordability checks were one of the more controversial measures set out in the Gambling Act Review white paper.

In a letter to banking industry body UK Finance, Stephen Almond, executive director, regulatory risk at the ICO, said that data sharing in this way did not infringe upon General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the view of the ICO.

However, this is only if the relevant information is shared in a transparent way.

“It is our view that the GDPR does allow credit reference agencies to share personal information with gambling operators for the purposes of enabling financial risk checks,” wrote Almond.

“In accordance with GDPR, the information that is shared must be limited to what is necessary.”

Almond also said that the ICO expects credit reference agencies to carry out a data protection impact assessment before processing personal information.

“Devastating consequences”

Almond went on to say that he is “keen” to see the finance sector share data in a way that will alleviate problem gambling.

“Problem gambling has devastating consequences for people’s finances, relationships and health,” he continued. “We are keen to see the financial sector share data to protect people from unaffordable losses and spiralling debt.”

On the same day the ICO showed its support for the finance data sharing initiative, the GB Gambling Commission said that the letter had helped to progress two of its own consumer protection initiatives – financial risk assessments and single customer view (SCV). Both of these aspects were outlined for implementation in the Gambling Act Review white paper.

Gambling Commission’s view

A single customer view would see data on individual’s spending shared between businesses, in order to combat gambling harm. The ICO publicly supported the development of a SCV in 2021, in response to a consultation from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at the time.

Helen Rhodes, director of major policy projects and evaluation at the Commission, wrote in the blog post that while the Commission, the ICO and the government supported the need for sharing certain financial information with operators, “there are no proposals for gambling data to be shared to credit reference agencies or to the financial sector”.

She also hailed the ICO’s support as an “important step” in the overall implementation process and to the white paper consultations that are set to take place this summer.

“The information published today by the ICO is an important step ahead of our consultation – it confirms that data sharing could take place in a manner that is compatible with data protection rules,” she wrote.

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