The UK watchdog for data protection has informed affiliates in the gambling sector that they are ‘risking their own future’ by unlawfully using personal data to power their campaigns.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reportedly received multiple complaints from users who have been subject to unwanted messages promoting gambling websites. These incidents refer to “spam texts” which, according to the organisation, outline “particular problems around affiliate marketing” in the gambling sector.

So far, action has come in the form of letters to over 400 companies suspected of misusing personal data. These request that each company state how they use the data they receive, with potential fines of up to £500,000 in the offing for those that fail to comply.

ICO gets tough

Cracking down on bad practice in the collection and use of people’s data is a huge focus for the ICO at the minute. The group has signalled its approval for the General Data Protection Regulation to be applied to a pre-Brexit UK, which will give consumers greater control over their own data. 

This has made headlines in the direct marketing sector, which encompasses those working with channels like SMS and email to target customers.

Meanwhile the organisation’s doors are open for any members of the public to send through information on companies they believe are behaving in an unscrupulous manner.

In the case of gambling affiliates, a note from David Clancy, who heads up the ICO’s anti-spam team, spells out what could be at stake for those that fail to play by the rules:

“Companies must comply with the law when using people’s personal information. Not knowing the law or trying to pass the buck to another company in the chain is no excuse.

“The public expect firms to be accountable for how they obtain and use personal data when marketing by phone, email or text. Fail to be accountable and you could be breaking the law, risking ICO enforcement action and the future of your business.”   

A series of potential rule breaks as submitted by the ICO can be found on its website.