A major breach of government data has reportedly allowed gambling firms to access the names, ages and addresses of 28 million children and students.
A Sunday Times investigation has found that betting firms have used the database to verify the ages of customers who claim to be 18 or over – boosting the number of young people who gamble online in the process.
The Department for Education has since disabled the database and referred the breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It said the arrangement with betting firms was not approved by officials.
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Education secretary Gavin Williamson has reportedly ordered his department to “leave no stone unturned” in its investigation.
The Learning Records Service, which contains details of pupils aged 14 and over at both state and private schools, as well as colleges, should only be used for educational purposes.
However, the newspaper has found that GB Group, a major data intelligence company, gained access to the database. It reportedly used the data for age and verification services it provides to clients, which include 32Red and Betfair.
It is reported that the database helped one gambling firm increase the numbers of young people passing its identity checks by 15 per cent.
GB Group told the Sunday Times that it could check dates of birth and addresses against the Learning Records Service – but this did not involve divulging data.
It 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.”
A recent survey found that an estimated 48 per cent of those aged 11-16 had spent money on gambling at some point in their lives.
The study, carried out by the Gambling Commission, also found that 11 per cent had gambled in the past week, more than had smoked a cigarette or taken illegal drugs.