UK ICO Enforcement Threat For Gambling Firms Over Advertising Cookies

November 23, 2023
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The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned that websites face enforcement action if they do not make changes to comply with data protection laws surrounding advertising cookies, highlighting online gambling firms targeting addicts as a key concern.
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The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned that websites face enforcement action if they do not make changes to comply with data protection laws surrounding advertising cookies, highlighting online gambling firms targeting addicts as a key concern.

In an announcement on November 21, the ICO said: “Some websites do not give users fair choices over whether or not to be tracked for personalised advertising.”

Stephen Almond, ICO executive director of regulatory risk, said: "Many of the biggest websites have got this right. We’re giving companies who haven’t managed that yet a clear choice: make the changes now, or face the consequences."

The ICO has written to companies that run “many of the UK’s most visited websites” and given them 30 days to comply with the law.

Almond added that “gambling addicts may be targeted with betting offers based on their browsing record”, along with two other examples of online adverts that highlight consumer concerns “about companies using their personal information to target them with ads without their consent”.

When asked by Vixio GamblingCompliance what this enforcement would entail, the ICO would not provide any comment.

The ICO has a range of enforcement powers at its disposal, including issuing warnings, enforcement notices, inspections and monetary penalties.

When asked by Vixio GamblingCompliance what this enforcement would entail, the ICO would not provide any comment.

In January 2024, the ICO is set to provide an update that will include companies that have still not complied with its concerns, as part of its ongoing work to ensure people’s rights are upheld by the online advertising industry.

Campaign group Clean Up Gambling welcomed the acknowledgment from the ICO on social media that gambling addicts are being targeted “following evidence we submitted to them about gambling industry data abuse”.

“We look forward to their investigation concluding,” Clean Up Gambling said.

The ICO has previously issued guidance that consumers must easily be able to select “reject all” advertising cookies and “accept all”. Websites can still display adverts when users reject all tracking, but must not tailor these to the person browsing.

However, Movement for an Open Web, whose members include digital advertisers, publishers and broadcasters, said despite it being “great to see regulatory enforcement in action”, it questioned “why advertising cookies only and not all cookies related to personal data?".

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