Archive for the ‘Age Verification’ Category

Problem gamblers seek to recover their losses…

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old bailey lady of justice A coalition of age verification companies have won the first round of their legal action against the Government in a bid to force ministers to introduce a shelved internet porn censorship scheme that would provide the companies with an income.The companies launched an appeal last year, saying they developed software that was never used.A judge ruled that age verification companies, backed by children’s charities, have an arguable case that the Culture Secretary exceeded her powers by deciding not to implement the ban, which had been voted for by Parliament .

The ruling means the claimants can now take the case to a judicial review, which could overturn the Government’s decision.

Plans to introduce an age verification scheme were shelved in October last year, perhaps because the law did not provide any provision for keep very dangerous ID and porn browsing data private and safe. At the time, ministers said the age verification scheme as defined in the Digital Economy Act 2017 would be superceded by forthcoming Duty of Care legislation.

In court, the Government argued that ministers had not exceeded their powers and that circumstances had radically altered since the porn ban legislation was originally passed.

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house of lords red logo The Age Appropriate Design Code has been written by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to inform websites what they must do to keep ICO internet censors at bay with regards to the government’s interpretations of GDPR provisions. Perhaps in the same way that the Crown Prosecution Service provides prosecution guidance as to how it interprets criminal law.The Age Appropriate Design Code dictates how websites, and in particular social media, make sure that they are not exploiting children’s personal data. Perhaps the most immediate effect is that social media will have to allow a level of usages that simply does not require children to hand over personal data. Requiring more extensive personal data, say in the way that Facebook does, requires users to provide ‘age assurance’ that they are old enough to take such decisions wisely.

However adult users may not be so willing to age verify, and may in fact also appreciate an option to use such websites without handing over data into the exploitative hands of social media companies.

So one suspects that US internet social media giants may not see Age Appropriate Design and the government’s Online Harms model for internet censorship as commercially very desirable for their best interests. And one suspects that maybe US internet industry pushback may be something that is exerting pressure on UK negotiators seeking a free trade agreement with the US.

Pure conjecture of course, but the government does seem very cagey about its timetable for both the Age Appropriate Design Code and the Online Harms bill. Here is the latest parliamentary debate in the House of Lords very much on the subject of the government’s timetable.

House of Lords Hansard: Age-appropriate Design Code, 18 May 2020

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to lay the regulation giving effect to the age- appropriate design code required under section 123 of the Data Protection Act 2018 before Parliament.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con)

The age-appropriate design code will play an important role in protecting children’s personal data online. The Government notified the final draft of the age-appropriate design code to the European Commission as part of our obligations under the technical standards and regulations directive. The standstill period required under the directive has concluded. The Data Protection Act requires that the code is laid in Parliament as soon as is practicably possible.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara:

I am delighted to hear that, my Lords, although no date has been given. The Government have a bit of ground to make up here, so perhaps it will not be delayed too long. Does the Minister agree that the Covid-19 pandemic is a perfect storm for children and for young people’s digital experience? More children are online for more time and are more reliant on digital technology. In light of that, more action needs to be taken. Can she give us some information about when the Government will publish their final response to the consultation on the online harms White Paper, for example, and a date for when we are likely to see the draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny?

Baroness Barran

I spent some time this morning with a group of young people, in part discussing their experience online. The noble Lord is right that the pandemic presents significant challenges, and they were clear that they wanted a safe space online as well as physical safe spaces. The Government share that aspiration. We expect to publish our response to the online harms consultation this autumn and to introduce the legislation this Session.

Lord Clement-Jones (LD)

My Lords, I was very disappointed to see in the final version of the code that the section dealing with age-appropriate application has been watered down to leave out reference to age-verification mechanisms. Is this because the age-verification provisions of the Digital Economy Act have been kicked into the long grass at the behest of the pornography industry so that we will not have officially sanctioned age-verification tools available any time soon?

Baroness Barran

There is no intention to water down the code. Its content is the responsibility of the Information Commissioner, who has engaged widely to develop the code, with a call for evidence and a full public consultation.

Lord Moynihan (Con)

My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister able to tell the House the results of the consultation process with the industry on possible ways to implement age verification online?

Baroness Barran

We believe that our online harms proposals will deliver a much higher level of protection for children, as is absolutely appropriate. We expect companies to use a proportionate range of tools, including age-assurance and age-verification technologies, to prevent children accessing inappropriate behaviour, whether that be via a website or social media.

The Earl of Erroll (CB)

May I too push the Government to use the design code to cover the content of publicly accessible parts of pornographic websites, since the Government are not implementing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act to protect children? Any online harms Act will be a long time in becoming effective, and such sites are highly attractive to young teenagers.

Baroness Barran

We agree absolutely about the importance of protecting young children online and that is why we are aiming to have the most ambitious online harms legislation in the world. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for Digital and Culture meet representatives of the industry regularly to urge them to improve their actions in this area.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the code represents a negotiation vis-à-vis the tech companies and thus there is no reason for any delay in laying it before Parliament? Does she further agree that it should be laid before Parliament before 10 June to enable it to pass before the summer break? This would enable the Government to deliver on the claim that the UK is the safest place on the planet to be online. Share The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned: This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Baroness Barran

The negotiation is not just with the tech companies. We have ambitions to be not only a commercially attractive place for tech companies but a very safe place to be online, while ensuring that freedom of speech is upheld. The timing of the laying of the code is dependent on discussions with the House authorities. As my noble friend is aware, there is a backlog of work which needs to be processed because of the impact of Covid-19.

Oliver Dowden takes over as the Culture Secretary, Julian Knight takes over the chair of the DCMS Select Committee and Ofcom is appointed as the AVMS internet censor.

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Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 13 February 2020.He was previously Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, and before that, Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office. He was elected Conservative MP for Hertsmere in May 2015.

The previous Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan will now be spending more time with her family.

There’s been no suggestions that Dowden will diverge from the government path on setting out a new internet censorship regime as outlined in its OnlIne Harms white paper.

Perhaps another parliamentary appointment that may be relevant is that Julian Knight has taken over the Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, the Parliamentary scrutiny body overseeing the DCMS.

Knight seems quite keen on the internet censorship idea and will surely be spurring on the DCMS.

And finally one more censorship appointment was announced by the Government. The government has appointed Ofcom to regulate video-sharing platforms under the audiovisual media services directive, which aims to reduce harmful content on these sites. That will provide quicker protection for some harms and activities and will act as a stepping stone to the full online harms regulatory framework.

In Fact this censorship process is set to start in September 2020 and in fact Ofcom have already produced their solution that shadows the age verification requirements of the Digital Economy Act but now may need rethinking as some of the enforcement mechanisms, such as ISP blocking, are no longer on the table. The mechanism also only applies to British based online adult companies providing online video. of which there are hardly any left, after previously being destroyed by the ATVOD regime.

Four companies hoping to profit from cancelled porn age verification go to court seeking compensation from the government.

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Old Bailey Four age verification companies have launched legal action to challenge the government’s decision to cancel the censorship scheme requiring age verification for access to internet porn. The companies have lodged a judicial review at the High Court Thursday.The Telegraph understands the companies are arguing the decision was an abuse of power as the move had been approved by parliament. They are also claiming damages, understood to be in the region of £3 million, for losses sustained developing age verification technology.

The four companies behind the judicial review – AgeChecked Ltd, VeriMe, AVYourself and AVSecure – are arguing the secretary of state only had power to choose when the scheme came into force, not scrap it in the form passed by Parliament.

The legal action has been backed by campaigners from the Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety (CCCIS), which represents organisations such as the NSPCC and Barnardo’s.The CEO of AVSecure, Stuart Lawley, a British tech entrepreneur who made his fortune in the dotcom boom, said he had personally lost millions creating the technology. He said the company, which is behind other parental control apps such as Ageblock, had been preparing for up to 10 million people signing up for the service on day one.

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DCMS logoMore than £2m of taxpayers’ money was spent preparing for the age verification for porn censorship regime before the policy was dropped in early October, the government has revealed.

The bulk of the spending, £2.2m, was paid to the BBFC to do the detailed work on the policy from 2016 onwards. Before then, additional costs were borne by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where civil servants were tasked with developing the proposals as part of their normal work.

Answering a written question fromthe shadow DCMS secretary, Tom Watson, Matt Warman for the government added: Building on that work, we are now establishing how the objectives of part three of the Digital Economy Act can be delivered through our online harms regime.

It is not just government funds that were wasted on the abortive scheme. Multiple private companies had developed systems that they were hoping to provide age verification services.

The bizarre thing was all this money was spent when the government knew that it wouldn’t even prevent determined viewers from getting access to porn. It was only was only considered as effective from blocking kids from stumbling on porn.

So all that expense, and all that potential danger for adults stupidly submitting to age verification, and all for what?

Well at least next time round the  government may consider that they should put a least a modicum of thought about people’s privacy.

It’s not ALL about the kids. Surely the government has a duty of care for adults too. We need a Government Harms bill requiring a duty of care for ALL citizens. Now that would be a first!

Report contains little to advance progress in the child safety game, maybe the government needs to buy another and hope for better luck next time

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The argument about loot boxes being gambling is very tiresome. The debate about whether they are akin to gambling has become more important than the debate about how to keep children safe. Surely Loot boxes can be deemed an unacceptable monetisation method for children on its own merits, without trying to match apples to pears.Longfield seems a bit new to the job, she is now calling for small games to be fully vetted by censors when this approach was given up ten years ago due to the unmanageable volume and unviable economics of expensive censors checking small games.

She is also dreaming that age verification is some sort of panacea for all societies ills. Parents generally know exactly what age their kids are, but the knowledge doesn’t magically make for an idyllic childhood.

gaming the system Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published a report, Gaming the system’ which looks at the experiences of children who play games online. The Children’s Commissioner’s Office commissioned the research company Revealing Reality to speak to groups of children who play online games like FIFA, Fortnite and Roblox about what they love and what worries them about gaming, both to shine a light on their experiences and to inform policy recommendations.

With 93% of children in the UK playing video games, the Children’s Commissioner is today calling for new rules to tighten up gambling laws and to address the worries children have expressed about how they feel out of control of their spending on online games.

However, it also reveals the drawbacks, in particular highlighting how many children are spending money on ‘in-game’ purchases because they feel they have to in order to keep up with friends or to advance in the game.

The report also shows how some children feel addicted to gaming and do not feel in control of the amount of time they spend playing games. Younger children told us they are playing games for an average of two to three hours a day, whereas older children are playing for three or more hours.

To address the concerns raised by children in the report, the Children’s Commissioner makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Bringing financial harm within the scope of the Government’s forthcoming online harms legislation. Developers and platforms should not enable children to progress within a game by spending money and spending should be limited to items which are not linked to performance.

  • All games which allow players to spend money should include features for players to track their historic spend, and there should be maximum daily spend limits introduced in all games which feature in-game spending and turned on by default for children.

  • The Government should take immediate action to amend the definition of gaming in section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate loot boxes as gambling.

  • The Government’s age appropriate design code must include provisions on nudge techniques and detrimental use of data, as proposed in the draft code.

  • Games that are distributed online should be subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, just as physical games are. There should be a requirement for an additional warning to be displayed for games which facilitate in-game spending. The Government should consult on whether age ratings of all games should be moderated pre-release, just as physical games are.

  • Online games should be a key focus of digital citizenship lessons in schools, rather than lessons focusing exclusively on social media. Teachers involved in the delivery of these lessons should be familiar with how key online games that are popular with children work.

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nicky morgan Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, issued a written statement cancelling the government’s current plans to require age verification for porn. She wrote:

The government published the Online Harms White Paper in April this year. It proposed the establishment of a duty of care on companies to improve online safety, overseen by an independent regulator with strong enforcement powers to deal with non-compliance. Since the White Paper’s publication, the government’s proposals have continued to develop at pace. The government announced as part of the Queen’s Speech that we will publish draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that our policy aims and our overall policy on protecting children from online harms are developed coherently in view of these developments with the aim of bringing forward the most comprehensive approach possible to protecting children.

The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.

The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe. We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.

The BBFC sounded a bit miffed about losing the internet censor gig. The BBFC posted on its website:

BBFC logo The introduction of age-verification on pornographic websites in the UK is a necessary and important child protection measure. The BBFC was designated as the Age-verification Regulator under the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) in February 2018, and has since worked on the implementation of age-verification, developing a robust standard of age-verification designed to stop children from stumbling across or accessing pornography online. The BBFC had all systems in place to undertake the role of AV Regulator, to ensure that all commercial pornographic websites accessible from the UK would have age gates in place or face swift enforcement action.

The BBFC understands the Government’s decision, announced today, to implement age-verification as part of the broader online harms strategy. We will bring our expertise and work closely with government to ensure that the child protection goals of the DEA are achieved.

I don suppose we will ever hear the real reasons why the law was ditched, but I suspect that there were serious problems with it. The amount of time and effort put into this, and the serious ramifications for the BBFC and age verification companies that must now be facing hard times must surely make this cancelling a big decision.

It is my guess that a very troublesome issue for the authorities is how both age verification and website blocking would have encouraged a significant number of people to work around government surveillance of the internet. It is probably more important to keep tabs on terrorists and child abusers rather than to lose this capability for the sake of a kids stumbling on porn.

Although the news of the cancellation was reported today, Rowland Manthorpe, a reporter for Sky News suggested on Twitter that maybe the idea had already been shelved back in the summer. He tweeted:

When @AJMartinSky and I broke the news that the porn block was being delayed again, we reported that it was on hold indefinitely. It was. Then our story broke. Inside DCMS a sudden panic ensued. Quickly, they drafted a statement saying it was delayed for 6 months

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nicky morgan House of Commons, 3rd October 2019.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan):

THon. Members will be aware of our ongoing work to keep people safe online and our proposals around age verification for online pornography. I wish to notify the House that the standstill period under the EU’s technical services and regulations directive expired at midnight last night. I understand the interest in this issue that exists in all parts of the House, and I will update the House on next steps in due course.

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ICO’s Data Protection Training
The Pavlov Method
nodding dog
 ☑  Yes I won’t read this message. and yes you can do what the fuck you like with my porn browsing data
 ☑  Yes please do, I waiver all my GDPR rights
 ☑  Yes I won’t read this message. and yes, feel free to blackmail me
 ☑  Yes you can do anything you like ‘to make my viewing experience better’
 ☑  Yes, no need to ask, I’ll tick anything

With callous disregard for the safety of porn users, negligent lawmakers devised an age verification scheme with no effective protection of porn users’ identity and porn browsing history.The Government considered that GDPR requirements, where internet users are trainer to blindly tick a box to give consent to the internet companies doing what the fuck they like with your data. Now internet users are well conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to tick the hundreds of tick boxes they are presented with daily. And of course nobody ever reads what they are consenting to, life’s too short.

After a while the government realised that the total lack of data protection for porn users may actually prevent their scheme form getting off the ground, as porn users simply would refuse to get age verified. This would result in bankrupt AV companies and perverse disinsentives for porn websites. Those that implement AV would then experience a devastating drop off in traffic and those that refuse age verification would be advantaged.

So the government commissioned a voluntary kitemark scheme for AV companies to try and demonstrate to auditors that they keep porn identity and browsing history safely. But really the government couldn’t let go of its own surveillance requirements to keep the browsing history of porn users. Eventually some AV companies won the right to have a scheme that did not log people’s browsing history, but most still do maintain a log (justified as ‘fraud protection’ in the BBFC kitemark scheme description).

well Now it appears that those that try to avoid the dangers of AV via VPNs may be not s safe as they would hope. The Henry Jackson Society has been researching the VPN industry and has found that 30% of VPNs are owned by Chinese companies that have direct data paths to the Chinese government.

Surely this will have extreme security issues as privately porn using people could then be set up for blackmail or pressure from the Chinese authorities.

The government needs to put an end to the current AV scheme and go back to the drawing board. It needs to try again, this time with absolute legal requirements to immediately delete porn users identity data and to totally ban the retention of browsing logs.

Anyway, the Henry Jackson Society explains its latest revelations:

henry jackson society logo Chinese spies could exploit Government’s new porn laws to gather compromising material on businessmen, civil servants and public figures, say think tanks.

They say Chinese firms have quietly cornered the market in technology that enables people to access porn sites without having to register their personal details with age verification firms or buy an age ID card in a newsagent.

The new law require those accessing porn sites to prove they are 18 but the checks and registration can be by-passed by signing up to a Virtual Private Network (VPNs). These anonymise the location of a computer by routing its traffic through a server based at remote locations.

It has now emerged through an investigation by security experts that many of the VPNs are secretly controlled by Chinese owned firms 203 as many as 30% of the networks worldwide.

It means that a VPN users’ viewing habits and data can not only be legally requested by the Chinese Government under its lax privacy laws but the VPNs could themselves also be state-controlled, according to the Adam Smith Institute and Henry Jackson Society.

Sam Armstrong, spokesman for the Henry Jackson Society, said:

A list of billions of late-night website visits of civil servants, diplomats, and politicians could 203 in the wrong hands — amount to the largest-ever kompromat file compiled on British individuals.

Those in sensitive jobs are precisely the types of individuals who would seek to use a VPN to circumvent the trip to the newsagent to buy a porn pass.

Yet, the opaque ownership of these VPNs by Chinese firms means there is a real likelihood any browsing going through them could fall into the hands of Chinese intelligence.

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk
ICO’s Data Protection Training
The Pavlov Method
nodding dog
 ☑  Yes I won’t read this message. and yes you can do what the fuck you like with my porn browsing data
 ☑  Yes please do, I waiver all my GDPR rights
 ☑  Yes I won’t read this message. and yes, feel free to blackmail me
 ☑  Yes you can do anything you like ‘to make my viewing experience better’
 ☑  Yes, no need to ask, I’ll tick anything

Digital Minister Margot James has apologised for the six-month delay on the so-called porn block, which had been due to take effect today (16th July). It is designed to force pornography websites to verify users are over 18.

But the law has been delayed twice – most recently because the UK government failed to properly notify European regulators. James told the BBC:

I’m extremely sorry that there has been a delay. I know it sounds incompetent. Mistakes do happen, and I’m terribly sorry that it happened in such an important area,

Of course the fundamental mistake is that the incompetent lawmakers cared only about ‘protecting the children’ and gave bugger all consideration to the resulting endangerment of the adults visiting porn sites.

It took the government months, but it finally started to dawn on them that perhaps they should do something to protect the identity data that they are forcing porn users to hand over that can then be pinned to their porn browsing history. They probably still didn’t care about porn users but perhaps realised that the scheme would not get of the ground if it proved so toxic that no one would ever sign up for age verification at all.

Well as a belated after thought the government, BBFC and ICO went away to dream up a few standards that perhaps the age verifiers ought to be sticking to try and ensure that data is being kept safe.

So then the whole law ended up as a bag of worms. The authorities now realise that there should be level of data protection, but unfortunately this is not actually backed up by the law that was actually passed. So now the data protection standards suggested by the government/BBFC/ICO are only voluntary and there remains nothing in law to require the data actually be kept safe. And there is no recourse against anyone who ends up exploiting people’s data.

The Open Rights Group have just written an open letter to the government to ask that government to change their flawed law and actually require that porn users’ data is kept properly safe:

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Re: BBFC Age Verification Privacy Certification Scheme

Dear Secretary of State,

open rights group 2016 logo We write to ask you to legislate without delay to place a statutory requirement on the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to make their privacy certification scheme for age verification providers mandatory. Legislation is also needed to grant the BBFC powers to require compliance reports and penalise non-compliant providers.

As presently constituted, the BBFC certification scheme will be a disaster. Our analysis report, attached, shows that rather than setting out objective privacy safeguards to which companies must adhere, the scheme allows companies to set their own rules and then demonstrate that these are being followed. There are no penalties for providers which sign up to the standard and then fail to meet its requirements.

The broadly-drafted, voluntary scheme encourages a race to the bottom on privacy protection. It provides no consistent guarantees for consumers about how their personal data will be safeguarded and puts millions of British citizens at serious risk of fraud, blackmail or devastating sexual exposure.

The BBFC standard was only published in April. Some age verification providers have admitted that they are not ready. Others have stated that for commercial reasons they will not engage with the scheme. This means that the bureaucratic delay to age verification’s roll-out can now be turned to advantage. The Government needs to use this delay to introduce legislation, or at the least issue guidance under section 27 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, that will ensure the privacy and security of online users is protected.

We welcome the opportunity to bring this issue to your attention and await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Killock Executive Director Open Rights Group