Online Bookies Beware – Info Commission Is Investigating Your Software

Punters complain that software was downloaded to their devices without their permission

Following player complaints, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed that it is scrutinising the manner in which bookmaking firms use software in order to ascertain whether laws are being broken.

Reporting on the issue, the BBC said the Commission has supported player complaints that software being downloaded on to their computers without their permission is unacceptable. The downloads occur automatically at some websites when punters visit the homepage.

The gamblers believe the software could be used to track their betting history and close their accounts if they win, whilst the gambling companies involved claim that they did not breach data laws, but use the software in contention (titled iesnare or iovation) to protect against fraud.

Speaking to the broadcaster, Justice for Punters organiser Brian Chappell, alleged that his accounts were closed with online bookmakers after placing winning bets….and he discovered the software on his hard drive after visiting the Skybet website.

“I actually cleaned my hard drive on my laptop and I intentionally went on the Skybet website before I went on any other internet site and within two seconds, iesnare – now called iovation, they keep changing the name – and there it was.”

Skybet responded: “Like many other operators, we use iesnare to tackle fraudulent activity. We notify customers we use iesnare in a banner at the top of our website and in our privacy policy.”

Other gambling companies denied they use iesnare to ban successful bettors, claiming that they only collect basic information, such as IP addresses, which identify the devices being used.

Blog author Peter Phillipson told the BBC that he found the iesnare software running in the background on his computer. When he disabled it, Totesport wouldn’t let him log in to his account.

He complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office:

“They told me they don’t believe that the argument that Totesport use, that it’s identifying a computer only and nothing personal, is valid,” he said.

“They say the IP data being processed here constitutes personal data under the Data Protection Act. So they found in my favour.”

A spokesperson for Totesport said: “Totesport uses this product for fraud prevention, authentication and customer protection purposes by checking whether devices have been identified with fraudulent transactions in the past, such as reported instances of identity theft, account takeovers, or malware attacks.

“It does not collect any client information. However, we are constantly reviewing our procedures and working with the ICO.”

Iovation, the anti-online fraud company which owns iesnare, passed the buck, saying it was a third party supplier and it was the bookmaking firms that have the responsibility of complying with data laws.

In any case, a spokesman said, Iovation had “no access to information, such as the winning and losing history of players, nor do we have access to specific betting details”.

Garreth Cameron, from the Information Commissioner’s Office, said the investigation was continuing: “Our enquiries will focus on looking at whether the companies in question have been very clear, very transparent about their use of these technologies,” he said.