Online Dataset Kept Track of Habitual Gamblers

A new discovery provides insight into how advertising agencies keep track of habitual gamblers for marketing purposes. While not illegal, the bombardment of players with ads is generally frowned upon and a principal reason for the country’s proposed ban on ads.

As reported by The Guardian, an online database on Xandr, a Microsoft-owned advertising tech platform, shows a dataset of 650,000 international audience segments, including “heavy TAB gamblers” and “people who have gambled in the last seven days.”

Wolfie Christl, a Cracked Labs privacy researcher, discovered the dataset and also found out that certain data brokers allowed their clients to reach offshore clients. In addition, Christl noted that there are more than 40 categories relating to Australian gamblers split, depending on their preferred vertical and whether they play online or in person.

Deakin University researcher Dr Simone McCarthy noted that the finding is concerning. According to her, the targeted advertisements can put even casual gamblers at risk of gambling harm.

The Dataset Is Outdated But Still Concerning

Microsoft eventually contacted The Guardian about the dataset, telling the news outlet that the document was, in fact, outdated. According to the report, the spokesperson underscored the compliance of Xandr’s data privacy practices, saying they are “regularly evaluated.”

The dataset in question was created in early 2021. However, this doesn’t make things better, according to Christl, who noted that this outdated data is still in use. He noted that it is difficult to follow the flow of data and its usage. Sometimes, even the data brokers don’t know how their data is used, the researcher argued.

The Dataset Included Ads Companies and Data Brokers

The Xandr datasheet also included companies that offer ads and targeted marketing. This, The Guardian reports, included companies such as Eyeota, Roy Morgan, StartApp and Nielsen Marketing Cloud, among others.

Roy Morgan, for example, seeks to understand where in Australia are people more likely to find gamblers. An anonymous source told The Guardian that such data can then be matched to other identifiers to create a more robust targeting model. While this is not an exact science, it still provides companies with a fairly reliable model.

Nielsen Marketing Cloud, on the other hand, included categories for “heavy” gamblers. However, a spokesperson reassured The Guardian that those datasets are no longer updated.

The anonymous source noted that even if datasets such as the one on Xandr are outlawed, operators would simply work directly with gaming-related publishers to target them. Because of that, constant vigilance is required.

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