Xandr, Microsoft’s Ad Tech Platform, Utilized for Monitoring Gamblers

Posted on: August 16, 2023, 08:38h. 

Last updated on: August 16, 2023, 08:38h.

In November 2020, Wolfie Christl, a researcher and tech expert with the Cracked Labs research institute in Vienna, Austria, revealed that Microsoft365 had surveillance potential. Now, it has been confirmed that Microsoft is a valuable source of data, including gambling information that bettors may unknowingly provide.

The Microsoft sign outside its headquarters
The Microsoft sign outside its headquarters. Its ad tech platform is being used by marketers to target gamblers around the world. (Image: Reuters)

Christl discovered on the Xandr website, an ad tech platform owned by Microsoft, a vast collection of data providers aimed at helping advertisers target specific online demographics.

Among the data, there are 650,000 global audience segments, including datasets from various vendors that offer effective strategies to reach potential gamblers not only in the US and Europe but also in Australia and other countries.

A New Disruption in the Sports Betting Space

Advertisers and marketers have embraced Xandr as a powerful tool. With its extensive categorization capabilities, it serves as a massive repository and data funnel to enhance marketing efforts.

Christl’s research unveiled clusters of individuals interested in online casinos and sports betting on Xandr. He also found detailed data specifically targeting Australian bettors.

Examples of specific categories include “heavy TAB gamblers” and “gambling at pub/club.” There are also categories for bettors who engage in the annual horse racing event, the Spring Racing Carnival, and the National Rugby League.

A total of over 40 categories cater to Australian bettors and gamblers alone, not to mention additional categories for other regions. Additionally, there is data indicating whether individuals have gambled in the last seven days, allowing marketers to target those who haven’t.

While advertising gambling and betting products is currently legal in Australia, there is a growing push towards regulation. The revelation of Xandr’s use in the gambling industry is likely to expedite this process.

No Cause for Concern at Microsoft

Christl’s research expands on the earlier work of investigative reporter Jon Keegan and data analyst Joel Eastwood. In June, they published a report in The Markup demonstrating the extensive capabilities of Xandr.

Among the multitude of options available are categories such as “heavy purchasers” of “pregnancy test kits” and individuals with “an interest in brain tumors.” There is even a category for “Dunkin Donuts Visitors,” and each category reportedly includes data on the companies that supplied the information.

Microsoft, however, dismisses the significance of this discovery. In a statement to Guardian Australia, the company acknowledged that the information was not intended for publication on the site and that it was outdated. Nevertheless, Microsoft did not deny the capabilities of Xandr.

Privacy and responsible gambling advocates argue that this is not insignificant. Even if the categories are not directly related to the gambling industry, leveraging analytical insights from large datasets can provide gaming operators with valuable information to target marketing initiatives.

Market channelization is an essential aspect of marketing, and the internet has made it more accessible. However, the realization of Xandr’s capabilities may make individuals think twice before providing their email addresses on websites that do not actually require them.

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