Archive for the ‘Internet Blocking’ Category

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DCMS logo Sky News has learned that the government has delayed setting a date for when age verification rules will come into force due to concerns regarding the security and human rights issues posed by the rules. A DCMS representative said:

This is a world-leading step forward to protect our children from adult content which is currently far too easy to access online.

The government, and the BBFC as the regulator, have taken the time to get this right and we will announce a commencement date shortly.

Previously the government indicated that age verification would start from about Easter but the law states that 3 months notice must be given for the start date. Official notice has yet to be published so the earliest it could start is already June 2019.

The basic issue is that the Digital Economy Act underpinning age verification does not mandate that identity data and browsing provided of porn users should be protected by law. The law makers thought that GDPR would be sufficient for data protection, but in fact it only requires that user consent is required for use of that data. All it requires is for users to tick the consent box, probably without reading the deliberately verbose or vague terms and conditions provided. After getting the box ticked the age verifier can then do more or less what they want to do with the data.

Realising that this voluntary system is hardly ideal, and that the world’s largest internet porn company Mindgeek is likely to become the monopoly gatekeeper of the scheme, the government has moved on to considering some sort of voluntary kitemark scheme to try and convince porn users that an age verification company can be trusted with the data. The kitemark scheme would appoint an audit company to investigate the age verification implementations and to approve those that use good practises.

I would guess that this scheme is difficult to set up as it would be a major risk for audit companies to approve age verification systems based upon voluntary data protection rules. If an ‘approved’ company were later found to be selling, misusing data or even getting hacked, then the auditor could be sued for negligent advice, whilst the age verification company could get off scot-free.

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ageid logo Pornhub and sister websites will soon require ID from users before being able to browse its porn.The government most recently suggested that this requirement would start from about Easter this year, but this date has already slipped. The government will give 3 months notice of the start date and as this has not yet been announced, the earliest start date is currently in June.

Pornhub and YouPorn will use the AgeID system, which requires users to identify themselves with an email address and a credit card, passport, driving licence or an age verified mobile phone number.

Metro.co.uk spoke to a spokesperson from AgeID to find out how it will work (and what you’ll actually see when you try to log in). James Clark, AgeID spokesperson, said:

When a user first visits a site protected by AgeID, a landing page will appear with a prompt for the user to verify their age before they can access the site.

First, a user can register an AgeID account using an email address and password. The user verifies their email address and then chooses an age verification option from our list of 3rd party providers, using options such as Mobile SMS, Credit Card, Passport, or Driving Licence.

The second option is to purchase a PortesCard or voucher from a retail outlet. Using this method, a customer does not need to register an email address, and can simply access the site using the Portes app.

Thereafter, users will be able to use this username/password combination to log into all porn sites which use the Age ID system.

It is a one-time verification, with a simple single sign-on for future access. If a user verifies on one AgeID protected site, they will not need to perform this verification again on any other site carrying AgeID.

The PortesCard is available to purchase from selected high street retailers and any of the UK’s 29,000 PayPoint outlets as a voucher. Once a card or voucher is purchased, its unique validation code must be activated via the Portes app within 24 hours before expiring.

If a user changes device or uses a fresh browser, they will need to login with the credentials they used to register. If using the same browser/device, the user has a choice as to whether they wish to login every time, for instance if they are on a shared device (the default option), or instead allow AgeID to log them in automatically, perhaps on a mobile phone or other personal device.

Clark claimed that AgeID’s system does not store details of people’s ID, nor does it store their browsing history. This sounds a little unconvincing and must be taken on trust. And this statement rather seems to be contradicted by a previous line noting that user’s email will be verified, so that piece of identity information at least will need to be stored and read.

The Portes App solution seems a little doubtful too. It claims not to log device data and then goes on to explain that the PortesCard needs to be locked to a device, rather suggesting that it will in fact be using device data. It will be interesting to see what app permissions the app will require when installing. Hopefully it won’t ask to read your contact list.

This AgeID statement rather leaves the AVSecure card idea in the cold. The AVSecure system of proving your age anonymously at a shop, and then obtaining a password for use on porn websites seems to be the most genuinely anonymous idea suggested so far, but it will be pretty useless if it can’t be used on the main porn websites.

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internet matters logo InternetMatters.org is group funded by UK internet and telecoms companies with the aim of promoting their role in internet safety.The group has now published a survey supporting the government’s upcoming introduction of age verification requirements for porn websites. The results reveal:

  • 83% feel that commercial porn sites should demand users verify their age before they’re able to access content.
  • 76% of UK parents feel there should be greater restrictions online to stop kids seeing adult content.
  • 69% of parents of children aged four to 16 say they’re confident the government’s new ID restrictions will make a difference.

However 17% disagreed with commercial porn sites requiring ID from their users. And the use of data was the biggest obstacle for those parents opposed to the plans. Of those parents who are anti-age verification, 30% said they wouldn’t trust age-verification companies with their personal data.

While 18% of parents claim they expect kids would find a way to get around age-verification and a further 13% claim they’re unsure that it would actually reduce the number of children accessing pornography. Age-verification supported by experts

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House of Commons logo The government has published Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2019 which defines which websites get caught up in upcoming internet porn censorship requirements and how social media websites are excused from the censorship.These new laws will come into force on the day that subsection (1) of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 comes fully into force. This is the section that introduces porn censorship and age verification requirements. This date has not yet been announced but the government has promised to give at least 3 months notice.

So now websites which are more than one-third pornographic content or else those that promote themselves as pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under. However the law does not provide any specific protection for porn viewers’ data beyond the GDPR requirements to obtain nominal consent before using the data obtained for any purpose the websites may desire.

The BBFC and ICO will initiate a voluntary kitemark scheme so that porn websites and age verification providers can be audited as holding porn browsing data and identity details responsibly. This scheme has not yet produced any audited providers so it seems a little unfair to demand that websites choose age verification technology before service providers are checked out.

It all seems extraordinarily dangerous for porn users to submit their identity to adult websites or age verification providers without any protection under law. The BBFC has offered worthless calls for these companies to handle data responsibly, but so many of the world’s major website companies have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and hackers, spammers, scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves are hardly likely to take note of the BBFC’s fine words eg suggesting ‘best practice’ when implementing age verification.

Neil Brown, the MD of law firm decoded.legal told Sky News:

It is not clear how this age verification will be done, and whether it can be done without also have to prove identity, and there are concerns about the lack of specific privacy and security safeguards.

Even though this legislation has received quite a lot of attention, I doubt most internet users will be aware of what looks like an imminent requirement to obtain a ‘porn licence’ before watching pornography online.

The government’s own impact assessment recognises that it is not guaranteed to succeed, and I suspect we will see an increase in advertising from providers in the near future.

It would seem particularly stupid to open one up to the dangers of have browsing and identity tracked, so surely it is time to get oneself protected with a VPN, which enables one to continue accessing porn without having to hand over identity details.

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archive org 0274x0300 logo The BBFC has just published a very short list of adjudications responding to website blocking complaints to mobile ISPs during the last quarter of 2018.There are several cases where innocuous websites were erroneously blocked by ISPs for no apparent reason whatsoever and a quick check by a staff member would have sorted out without the need to waste the BBFC’s time. These sites should get compensation from the for grossly negligent and unfair blocking.

The only adjudication of note was that the general archive website archive.org which of course keeps a snapshot of a wide range of websites including some porn.

The BBFC noted that this was the second time that they have taken a look at the site::

The BBFC provided a further adjudication when we viewed the website on 10 October 2018. As in September 2015, we determined that the site was a digital archive which hosted a range of media including video, books and articles. We found a range of pornography across the archive which featured explicit images of sexual activity, in both animated and non-animated contexts. The site also contained repeated uses of very strong language. Additionally, out of copyright film and video material which the BBFC has passed 18 was also present on the site.

As such, we concluded that we would continue to classify the site 18.

It is interesting to note that the BBFC have never been asked to adjudicate about similarly broad websites where it would be totally untenable to come to the same 18 rated but correct conclusion, eg google.com, youtube.com, twitter.com. They would all have to be 18 rated and it would cause untold trouble for everybody. I wonder who decides ‘best not go there’?

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regulatory policy commitee logo Parliament’s Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) has reported that the government’s approach to internet porn censorship and age verification is fit for purpose, but asks a few important questions about how safe it is for porn viewers.The RPC was originally set up a decade ago to help cut red tape by independently checking government estimates of how much complying with new laws and regulations would cost the private sector. Of curse all it has achieved is to watch the western world suffocate itself in accelerating red tape to such a point that the west seems to be on a permanent course to diminishing wealth and popular unrest. One has to ask if the committee itself is fit for purpose?

Anyway in the subject of endangering porn users by setting them up for identity thieves, blackmailers and scammers, the authors write:

Risks and wider impacts. The Impact Assessment (IA) makes only limited reference to risks and wider impacts of the measure. These include the risk that adults and children may be pushed towards the dark web or related systems to avoid AV, where they could be exposed to illegal activities and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with. The IA also recognises numerous other wider impacts, including privacy/fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps.

Given the potential severity of such risks and wider impacts, the RPC believes that a more thorough consideration of each, and of the potential means to mitigate them, would have been appropriate. The RPC therefore recommends that the Department ensures that it robustly monitors these risks and wider impacts, post-implementation.

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vodafone 0300x0300 logo ISP Vodafone has begun blocking a pair of illicit streaming portals in unusual circumstances. Burning Series and Serial Stream were rendered inaccessible on Tuesday, but not as the result of a specific blocking injunction. The ISP says that following a decision by the Federal Court of Justice in the summer, it felt compelled to block the sites following a request from a copyright holder.

The fact that ISPs around the world are blocking pirate sites to prevent copyright infringement is nothing new. Aside from voluntary arrangements, such as the one currently playing out in Portugal, ISPs tend to wait for courts to hand down an injunction before blocking a site. In Germany, however, a new situation has raised its head.

On Tuesday, subscribers to Vodafone discovered that they could no longer access streaming portals Burning Series (BS.to) and Serial Stream (S.to). Rather than accessing the thousands of TV shows usually on offer, they were instead met by a blocking message presented by their ISP.

Both sites currently have messages on their main pages, explaining that Vodafone has chosen to block their platforms.