Swedish Data Inspection Board questions use of Svenska Spel's Playscan
The proactive monitoring of individual gamblers through big data analytics — motivated by the need to identify and protect problem gamblers – has been questioned by Sweden's Data Inspection Board, even where such surveillance is conducted with players' implied consent.
Focusing on the anti-problem gambling Playscan software developed and deployed by state gambling monopoly Svenska Spel, the Board has suggested that its use could be in violation of Swedish and European Union privacy law, reports Bloomberg business news.
The publication notes that if the finding gains traction with privacy regulators in other countries, it would not only crimp the effectiveness of a popular way of fighting gambling addiction but also might put a damper on investment.
Commenting on the report, US attorney specialising in cybersecurity and privacy, Thomas F. Zych, said. "As far as I know, they're the first one that's taken on the gaming analytics, but it's not inconsistent with what other European countries are doing in other settings. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told Bloomberg that the opinion is a setback for initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of problem gambling.
"We believe being able to analyse player behaviour to help prevent gambling addiction is just one of the more exciting opportunities in the gaming industry right now, and it's been shown to be very helpful," he said, adding that he was not aware of a single incident in which a problem gambler had invoked privacy laws associated with the inappropriate release of information by a regulator.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the London-based online gambling trade body, the Remote Gambling Association, said he hopes the Swedish ruling won't deter online gambling companies from developing systems that allow problem gamblers to be detected.
"We are sure such measures can be put in place without breaching data protection laws, and that they will be of increasing use in minimizing gambling-related harm," he said.
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