Australia: Researcher finds online advertising database targeting users based on gambling habits

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A privacy researcher at Cracked Labs named Wolfie Christl has found a large dataset containing 650,000 international audience segments on Xandr, an advertising technology platform from Microsoft. In the database, there are several Australian residents, among others, listed who are grouped by their gambling habits or their interest in casinos. The data is made available to advertisers by data brokers to target specific set of people.

Experts allege that this practice can be really harmful in case of problem gamblers. Personal data today holds a lot of value as it is a staple of advertising companies. These companies can bombard people with specific, targeted advertisements that can easily influence their choices.

While advertising gambling to adults is in no way illegal in Australia, these adverts usually target people who have gambling addiction, how much they spend at casinos and the likes which was concerning, prompting the federal government to form a parliamentary inquiry committee.

According to Christl this is what makes the trade of personal data harmful. He said, “Much of the data is probably inaccurate and flawed, which doesn’t make it better, because it is still used to profile and target people. Nobody knows exactly where the data flows to and how it is used, not even the brokers.”

Roy Morgan Research, a data provider, appeared in the list obtained by Christl. Its chief digital officer Howard Seccombe said that they conduct several surveys each year to understand people’s habits but do not sell that data. Rather, they just provide location-based insights.

“We simply understand areas in Australia where you’re more likely to find people who do something. In this instance, this is basically saying in Australia, where are you more likely to find people who gamble?” said Seccombe as per The Guardian.

This was also seen in the Xandr dataset as people were not mentioned individually but were divided into categories.

“No data company that is selling your data is omniscient, and so they’re taking the tiny sliver of data that they do have and building out an educated guess,” said an ad tech expert who spoke to the same publication.

He also revealed that even if these data providers were barred, people would still see relevant adverts as they also work with casinos and similar companies that also provide them similar data.

Illegal adverts still prevalent

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has fined another gambling firm for advertising illegally. BlueBet has allegedly displayed three advertisements on billboards in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The domestic bookmaker is facing 43 charges under the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.

Each count has a fine of 120 penalty units with each penalty unit amounting to $184.92. If found guilty of all charges, BlueBet will have to face a fine of over $950,000.

“All wagering service providers advertising in Victoria must comply with relevant legislation. Where we detect non-compliance, especially non-compliance that can exacerbate gambling harm. We will take a zero-tolerance approach and use all the enforcement powers available to us,” said Jason Cremona, Regulatory Services Director of VGCCC, as quoted by Asia Gaming Brief.

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