The Gambling Commission has a problem. It holds gambling business in utter contempt and thinks that bookies are suitable private companies to forcibly and invasively snoop into people's financial affairs.
The Racing Post editor explains better than
the Gambling Commission how this proposal will pan out:
Nothing to worry about, then. Just a perfectly normal proposal that a non-governmental quango staffed by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats -- not even civil
servants -- will determine a loss level at which you and I should be subject to checks on our personal finances. Just a demand that in order to continue betting if a couple of £25 each-way punts go awry, we must share payslips and bank statements with
Well! Most punters would tell any betting operator asking for such invasive details of one's financial affairs to go whistle, but imagine for a second that you would subject yourself to such an illiberal and demeaning
process. How would your capacity to bet be assessed? The Gambling Commission's consultation document gives some clues, and its suggestions should horrify punters and anyone who cares about the rights of the individual to manage their own affairs without
overweening state interference.
First, it is essential to note that while proponents of affordability checks would have you believe these can take place seamlessly and without any inconvenience to punters by utilising information
betting operators already hold or can access from credit agencies, the Gambling Commission states this is not the case, noting we would want to be clear that it is still likely that operators will need to collect information directly from customers.
So, let's say you are a daily £10 punter and after a fortnight of middling-to-poor results you hit the prospective £100 threshold for affordability checks. You reluctantly and with grave reservations hand over your most sensitive
financial documents for review. How does the operator decide if you are barred from betting for the rest of the month and subject to punting restrictions for evermore?
According to the Gambling Commission, the most relevant way of
assessing your capacity to bet before beginning to experience harms is through assessing what it calls discretionary income. This is what you have left each month after spending on essentials like taxes, bills, food and housing. Crucially, however, the
commission adds it would not be expected that anyone could spend their entire discretionary income on gambling without experiencing harms.
As such, the Gambling Commission is not just suggesting your financial affairs should be
subject to the sort of scrutiny you might find uncomfortable coming from your spouse, never mind Sky Bet, but that the sum of money you have left after meeting all obligations and purchasing all essentials still cannot be used as you see fit. This is a
naked admission that this is not about affordability, but about prohibitionism and control.
Meanwhile there as an additional takeout from reading the consultation paper:
Bettors should simply never use bookies forums. The bookies are expected to crawl through people's conversations looking clues about people's mental state. So if you comment that you are a bit depressed that your bet failed you may find that you get
banned on grounds of clinical depression.
Similarly bettors should think very carefully about what they tell bookies via helpline conversations or via messaging services. It is clear that the bookie's staff will be listening to every word
wondering if what you say can be interpreted as some sort of clue about personal or financial difficulties.
Bettors should also consider whether using self control mechanisms such as staking limits or time outs may be interpreted as some sort of
admission that bettors need to be closely surveilled.
The ICO issued the code on 12 August 2020 and it will come into force on 2 September 2020 with a 12 month transition period.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham writes:
Data sits at the heart of the digital services
children use every day. From the moment a young person opens an app, plays a game or loads a website, data begins to be gathered. Who's using the service? How are they using it? How frequently? Where from? On what device?
information may then inform techniques used to persuade young people to spend more time using services, to shape the content they are encouraged to engage with, and to tailor the advertisements they see.
For all the benefits the
digital economy can offer children, we are not currently creating a safe space for them to learn, explore and play.
This statutory code of practice looks to change that, not by seeking to protect children from the digital world,
but by protecting them within it.
This code is necessary.
This code will lead to changes that will help empower both adults and children.
One in five UK internet users are
children, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them. In our own research conducted to inform the direction of the code, we heard children describing data practices as nosy, rude and a bit freaky.
national survey into people's biggest data protection concerns ranked children's privacy second only to cyber security. This mirrors similar sentiments in research by Ofcom and the London School of Economics.
This code will lead
to changes in practices that other countries are considering too.
It is rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that recognises the special safeguards children need in all aspects of their life.
Data protection law at the European level reflects this and provides its own additional safeguards for children.
The code is the first of its kind, but it reflects the global direction of travel with similar reform being
considered in the USA, Europe and globally by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
This code will lead to changes that UK Parliament wants.
Parliament and government ensured UK
data protection laws will truly transform the way we look after children online by requiring my office to introduce this statutory code of practice.
The code delivers on that mandate and requires information society services to
put the best interests of the child first when they are designing and developing apps, games, connected toys and websites that are likely to be accessed by them.
This code is achievable.
The code is
not a new law but it sets standards and explains how the General Data Protection Regulation applies in the context of children using digital services. It follows a thorough consultation process that included speaking with parents, children, schools,
children's campaign groups, developers, tech and gaming companies and online service providers.
Such conversations helped shape our code into effective, proportionate and achievable provisions.
Organisations should conform to the code and demonstrate that their services use children's data fairly and in compliance with data protection law.
The code is a set of 15 flexible standards 203 they do not ban or specifically prescribe 203 that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child
are the primary consideration when designing and developing online services.
Settings must be high privacy by default (unless there's a compelling reason not to); only the minimum amount of personal data should be collected and
retained; children's data should not usually be shared; geolocation services should be switched off by default. Nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to provide unnecessary personal data, weaken or turn off their privacy settings. The
code also addresses issues of parental control and profiling.
This code will make a difference.
Developers and those in the digital sector must act. We have allowed the maximum transition period of
12 months and will continue working with the industry.
We want coders, UX designers and system engineers to engage with these standards in their day-to-day to work and we're setting up a package of support to help.
But the next step must be a period of action and preparation. I believe companies will want to conform with the standards because they will want to demonstrate their commitment to always acting in the best interests of the child.
Those companies that do not make the required changes risk regulatory action.
What's more, they risk being left behind by those organisations that are keen to conform.
A generation from now, I believe we
will look back and find it peculiar that online services weren't always designed with children in mind.
When my grandchildren are grown and have children of their own, the need to keep children safer online will be as second
nature as the need to ensure they eat healthily, get a good education or buckle up in the back of a car.
And while our code will never replace parental control and guidance, it will help people have greater confidence that their
children can safely learn, explore and play online.
There is no doubt that change is needed. The code is an important and significant part of that change.