UK Breach Gives Gaming Firms Access to Data on 28M Teens

United Kingdom gaming companies apparently obtained access to data on 28 million UK teenagers because of a reported massive breach. The incident comes just as the region moves to strengthen protections for children from online threats.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, is “shocked” about a reported data beach involving the names and addresses of millions of UK teenagers. (Image: Channel 4)

With the data breach, the companies had the ability to lure youngsters into online gambling sites, according to news reports. The database includes names, addresses, and ages of teens living in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The database was associated with the UK Learner Record Service. Its data lets schools confirm student academic records and eligibility for funds. Its use is restricted to educational functions.

City A.M. reported the UK Department for Education (DfE) blamed a third party company for the gambling firms getting access to the data. The DfE further claims it never okayed sharing of the data with gambling companies, and the DfE has since blocked the database.

A data intelligence firm called GB Group was able to access the database, news reports reveal. Among the users of GB Group’s services are gaming companies 32 Red and Betfair, City A.M. reported.

This was completely unacceptable, and we have immediately stopped the firm’s access and ended our agreement with them. We will be taking the strongest possible action,” a DfE spokesperson was quoted by City A.M.

It also appears access to the Learner Record Service was given to Trust Systems Software. Officials are investigating if Trust Systems Software also gave database access to GB Group, the news report said.

But Trust Systems responded it did not give GB Group access. Company officials told the Sunday Times it “placed the highest possible premium” on lawful use of data, the report adds.

In a statement released to the media, GB Group said, “We can confirm that we use the Learning Records Service dataset via a third party. We take claims of this nature very seriously and, depending on the results of our review, we will take appropriate action.”

UK Children’s Commissioner is ‘Shocked’

Over the weekend, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told the Sunday Times, “I am very shocked to learn that data has been handed over in this way.”

The breach came to light in a recent report from the Sunday Times.

The report comes as a new privacy code — called the Age Appropriate Design Code — was released on Wednesday in the UK for online games, social media, and streaming services used by children.

The Information Commissioner’s Office published the code. But it needs approval from Parliament before going into effect, the BBC reported.

United Kingdom Protects Children from Online Threats

Similarly, last April, gambling ads on child and teen-friendly UK websites and video games were banned. The move was part of an effort to curb problem gambling among UK youngsters.

An estimated 55,000 out of all 11- to 16-year-olds in Britain are classified as problem gamblers, according to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). Also, a recent UKGC study found that five percent of British children had gambled online in the past 12 months, with some admitting to having used a parent’s account.

Last year, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) opened its first problem gambling clinic for children. The National Problem Gambling Clinic in London offers help from specialists for children and young people aged 13 to 25.

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