Problem gambler

We’ve all been there. You’ve got some knockoff ‘Orwell was right’ hokum to please the gambling industry, and a dusty tabloid owned by a media group that makes a lot of money out of bingo and betting have space in amongst the adverts to publish it. Do you really have to check the facts? Do you actually have to read about the proposals that offend you / your mates in the betting sector, or can you just make it up and end up defaming innocent public servants? If you are Andrew Bridgen, MP for NW Leicestershire, the answer is a resounding ‘sorry what?’

In an article entitledFaceless civil servants are about to pry into every corner of your life ANDREW BRIDGEN MP“, published by the Daily Express, Andrew Bridgen MP pillories the Information Commissioner’s Office, who he claims have plans to set up and maintain a database of people who have more than one gambling account, in order to allow the ICO to have a ‘Single View of the Customer’. According to Mr Bridgen, not only can the ICO not be trusted to keep this database safe, it will be accessible to two state agencies, an unspecified number of private sector bodies and (without any evidence) “in time, other Government bodies“.

Is this what we want? Is this the right way to treat adults? What’s next?” Bridgen demands. Apparently, what’s next is that the state will demand to know when you eat a Twix. Every aspect of our lives will come under scrutiny by erm, who exactly? The tired tirade about state surveillance that follows is unenlightening, but given that Bridgen represents the party that has been in government since 2010, a government that approved the appointment of both the current and incoming incumbent of the Information Commissioner role, if this is all so terrible, shouldn’t Bridgen take it up with his party colleagues?

Oh, and by the way, the central premise of Mr Bridgen’s article is completely incorrect.

The Information Commissioner has no plans to set up and maintain a database of people who have two gambling accounts, or people who might otherwise be identified as problem gamblers. It has no power to do so, even it wanted to. The ICO has acted in a purely advisory role for the Gambling Commission, who – at the behest of the House of Lords Gambling Industry Select Committee – are investigating how gambling companies might overcome perceived difficulties with data sharing about problem gamblers caused by the GDPR. Whatever plans there are exist within the Commission, who have submitted a project to the ICO’s sandbox.

Anyone who has read the Sandbox report into these proposals can form a view on what the Gambling Commission proposes to do with gamblers’ data, and whether the ICO has played their part properly as the UK’s Data Protection regulator. As it goes, I think they’ve done pretty well in an area where one of society’s least acknowledged and most pernicious addictions causes great damage. But I have an advantage over Mr Bridgen. I have read the ICOs report on the matter; I respectfully suggest that he has never seen it.

Whether Mr Bridgen concocted this fake news himself or has been incautious enough to allow his name to be applied to someone else’s misbegotten bullshit is immaterial. The picture painted under his name in a national newspaper is a forgery. I can’t take his views about the issue of data sharing seriously when he literally doesn’t know who is responsible for the proposals. The Gambling Commission is never mentioned in the article.

A cynical person might point how many bingo and betting brands are owned by Reach, the proprietors of the Daily Express. I am sure that the fact that Reach’s CEO was formerly CEO of Ladbrokes Coral and COO of William Hill Online is also a coincidence.

The public servants at the ICO are happily faceless, given that an MP is currently writing misleading nonsense in the press about what they do. If Bridgen has genuine objections to what the ICO or the Gambling Commission has done in the area of data sharing about problem gamblers, that’s up to him. It took me five minutes of Googling to find out what the ICO’s role is, and I am the last person who would normally be defending them. Before he next fulminates on betting, or surveillance, or whatever else, I suggest that Bridgen checks his facts, apologises to the ICO, and asks for this poorly-researched garbage to be dropped.