Ad tracking and targeted marketing practices in the online gambling industry have come under increasing scrutiny due to concerns about their potential negative impact on vulnerable users. The UK data watchdog is currently investigating a complaint that sheds light on the extent and scope of ad tracking and targeting techniques used in the industry, which is why it is imperative to address the ethical implications of data profiling and personalised advertising in the gambling sector.
The online gambling industry invests heavily in advertising, with an annual expenditure of £1.5 billion in the UK alone. This investment allows companies to gather substantial user data, ranging from login details to gaming habits and spending patterns, enabling them to create detailed behavioural profiles of their customers. By targeting their advertising efforts towards specific individuals, the industry seeks to maximise its profits, with 60% of these profits reportedly coming from just 5% of users, many of whom are considered vulnerable or problem gamblers.
Amid growing concerns about the impact of ad tracking and targeted marketing on vulnerable users, advocacy groups like Clean Up Gambling have filed complaints with regulatory authorities. The complaint filed by Clean Up Gambling with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office focuses on Sky Bet, an online platform operated by one of the world’s largest gambling companies. However, the investigation aims to scrutinise the entire online gambling industry and its use of adtech companies and data brokers to target customers.
To identify potentially dangerous gaming behaviours and address gambling addiction, many respected online casinos are employing advanced artificial intelligence systems. These AI systems analyse user behaviour to customise marketing strategies and identify individuals who may be vulnerable to excessive gambling. While the intention may be to promote responsible gambling practices, the ethical implications of AI-driven ad tracking have raised concerns.
The complaint filed with the ICO highlights the extensive data profiling conducted by gambling companies and their partners. Companies often collaborate with data brokers and advertising partners to create detailed user profiles that include a wide range of attributes, such as gaming preferences, spending habits, and susceptibility to specific marketing tactics, like mass emailing. The extent of data profiling raises concerns about user privacy and consent, especially when dealing with sensitive information related to gambling addiction.
Responsible gaming practices should be a priority for all online gambling companies to protect users from potential harm. The complaint filed with the ICO raises allegations of illegality, such as the failure to seek user consent for collecting sensitive information related to gambling addiction, making transparency and user consent crucial when handling personal data.
As the investigation into ad tracking and targeted marketing in the online gambling industry unfolds, it underscores the importance of ethical data practices and responsible advertising. The industry must prioritise user safety and well-being over profits, ensuring that data profiling and personalised marketing do not exploit vulnerable individuals. Urgent reforms are needed to create a safer gambling environment and protect users from potential harm, which is why regulatory authorities must collaborate with the industry to establish clear guidelines that safeguard users and promote responsible gambling practices.