Online gaming sites eyeballed by UK data watchdog over spam texts

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Online gaming sites have been put on notice by the UK's data regulator as part of an investigation to crack down on the sector's seemingly industrial scale spam text tactics.

The Information Commissioner's Office has warned 400 companies that they must explain how they use customers' personal data. The watchdog also wants to know what method the firms use to send out marketing texts.

It would seem that the companies singled out by the ICO use affiliate marketing to bring in new customers. What's less clear, however, is who is the data controller in such a configuration. If no one takes responsibility, data rules may be overlooked, which in turn could lead to firms operating in the UK facing fines of up to £500,000 for failing to comply with the law.

The ICO added that the online gambling world was displaying "particular problems" around its use of affiliate marketing. Gambling sites are separately being probed by the UK's Competitions and Market Authority over concerns about a raft of potential breaches of consumer law.

"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," said anti-spam investigations boss David Clancy. "The public expect firms to be accountable for how they obtain and use personal data when marketing by phone, e-mail, or text. Fail to be accountable and you could be breaking the law, risking ICO enforcement action and the future of your business."

The ICO published a new set of codes explaining how businesses and organisations needed to be more upfront with customers about how their personal data is being used. The regulator also has a reporting mechanism for Brits to dob in spammers and nuisance sales calls.

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