Archive for the ‘Age Verification’ Category

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BBFC logo Age verification has been hanging over us for several years now – and has now been put back to the end of 2018 after enforcement was originally planned to start last month.

I’m enormously encouraged by how many people took the opportunity to speak up and reply to the BBFC consultation on the new regulations .

Over 500 people submitted a response using the tool provided by the Open Rights Group , emphasising the need for age verification tech to be held to robust privacy and security standards.

I’m told that around 750 consultation responses were received by the BBFC overall, which means that a significant majority highlighted the regulatory gap between the powers of the BBFC to regulate adult websites, and the powers of the Information Commissioner to enforce data protection rules.

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avsecure age verification cardAdults who want to watch online porn (or maybe by adults only products such as alcohol) will be able to buy codes from newsagents and supermarkets to prove that they are over 18 when online.One option available to the estimated 25 million Britons who regularly visit such websites will be a 16-digit code, dubbed a ‘porn pass’.

While porn viewers will still be able to verify their age using methods such as registering credit card details, the 16-digit code option would be a fully anonymous option. According to AVSecure’s the cards will be sold for £10 to anyone who looks over 18 without the need for any further identification. It doesn’t say on the website, but presumably in the case where there is doubt about a customer’s age, then they will have to show ID documents such as a passport or driving licence, but hopefully that ID will not have to be recorded anywhere.

It is hope he method will be popular among those wishing to access porn online without having to hand over personal details to X-rated sites.

The user will type in a 16 digit number into websites that belong to the AVSecure scheme. It should be popular with websites as it offers age verification to them for free (with the £10 card fee being the only source of income for the company). This is a lot better proposition for websites than most, if not all, of the other age verification companies.

AVSecure also offer an encrypted implementation via blockchain that will not allow websites to use the 16 digit number as a key to track people’s website browsing. But saying that they could still use a myriad of other standard technologies to track viewers.

The BBFC is assigned the task of deciding whether to accredit different technologies and it will be very interesting to see if they approve the AVSecure offering. It is easily the best solution to protect the safety and privacy of porn viewers, but it maybe will test the BBFC’s pragmatism to accept the most workable and safest solution for adults which is not quite fully guaranteed to protect children. Pragmatism is required as the scheme has the technical drawback of having no further checks in place once the card has been purchased. The obvious worry is that an over 18s can go around to other shops to buy several cards to pass on to their under 18 mates. Another possibility is that kids could stumble on their parent’s card and get access. Numbers shared on the web could be easily blocked if used simultaneously from different IP addresses.

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wild west character
Your data’s safe with us

The Culture Secretary has vowed to end the Wild West for tech giants amid anger at claims data from Facebook users was harvested to be used by political campaigns.

Matt Hancock warned social media companies that they could be slapped with new rules and regulations to rein them in.

It comes amid fury at claims the Facebook data of around 50 million users was taken without their permission and used by Cambridge Analytica.

The firm played a key role in mapping out the behaviour of voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election and the EU referendum campaign earlier that year.

Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture select committee, has said he wants to haul Mark Zuckerberg to Parliament to explain himself.

Hancock said:

Tech companies store the data of billions of people around the world – giving an unparalleled insight into the lives and thoughts of people. And they must do more to show they are storing the data responsibly,

Your Standard Rip-off…The Digital Policy Alliance, a group of parliamentarians, waxes lyrical about its document purporting to be a code of practice for age verification, and then charges 108 quid to read it

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See article from theregister.co.uk
See article from shop.bsigroup.com
The Digital Policy Alliance is a cross party group of parliamentarians with associate members from industry and academia.It has led efforts to develop a Publicly Available Specification (PAS 1296) which was published on 19 March.

Crossbench British peer Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, said:

We need to make the UK a safe place to do business, he said. That’s why we’re producing a British PAS… that set out for the age check providers what they should do and what records they keep.

The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should work.

This PAS will sit alongside data protection and privacy rules set out in the General Data Protection Regulation and in the UK’s Data Protection Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. Hay explained:

We can’t put rules about data protection into the PAS206 That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can’t mandate them inside this PAS 203 but it’s in there as ‘you must obey the law’… [perhaps] that’s been too subtle for the organisations that have been trying to take a swing at it.

What Hay didn’t mention though was that all of this ‘help’ for British industry would come with a hefty £ 108 price tag for a 60 page document.

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open rights group 2016 logo The Open Rights Group, Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake have done a magnificent job in highlighting the dangers of mandating that porn companies verify the age of their customers.Worst case scenario

In the worst case scenario, foreign porn companies will demand official ID from porn viewers and then be able to maintain a database of the complete browsing history of those officially identified viewers.

And surely much to the alarm of the government and the newly appointed internet porn censors at the BBFC, then this worst case scenario seems to be the clear favourite to get implemented. In particular Mindgeek, with a near monopoly on free porn tube sites, is taking the lead with its Age ID scheme.

Now for some bizarre reason, the government saw no need for its age verification to offer any specific protection for porn viewers, beyond that offered by existing and upcoming data protection laws. Given some of the things that Google and Facebook do with personal data then it suggests that these laws are woefully inadequate for the context of porn viewing.  For safety and national security reasons, data identifying porn users should be kept under total lock and key, and not used for any commercial reason whatsoever.

A big flaw

But there in lies the flaw of the law. The government is mandating that all websites, including those based abroad, should verify their users without specifying any data protection requirements beyond the law of the land. The flaw is that foreign websites are simply not obliged to respect British data protection laws.

So as a topical example, there would be nothing to prevent a Russian porn site (maybe not identifying itself as Russian) from requiring ID and then passing the ID and subsequent porn browsing history straight over to its dirty tricks department.

Anyway the government has made a total pigs ear of the concept with its conservative ‘leave it to industry to find a solution’ approach’. The porn industry simply does not have the safety and security of its customers at heart. Perhaps the government should have invested in its own solution first, at least the national security implications may have pushed it into at least considering user safety and security.

Where we are at

As mentioned above campaigners have done a fine job in identifying the dangers of the government plan and these have been picked up by practically all newspapers. These seem to have chimed with readers and the entire idea seems to be accepted as dangerous. In fact I haven’t spotted anyone, not even ‘the think of the children’ charities pushing for ‘let’s just get on with it’. And so now its over to the authorities to try and convince people that they have a safe solution somewhere.

The Digital Policy Alliance

digital policy alliance logoPerhaps as part of a propaganda campaign to win over the people, parliament’s Digital Policy Alliance are just about to publish guidance on age verification policies. The alliance is a cross party group that includes, Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, who made some good points about privacy concerns whilst the bill was being forced through the House of Lords.

He said that a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) numbered 1296 is due to be published on 19 March. This will set out for the age check providers what they should do and what records they keep.

The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should work.

However the document will carry no authority and is not set to become an official British standard. He explained:

We can’t put rules about data protection into the PAS… That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can’t mandate them inside this PAS — but it’s in there as ‘you must obey the law’…

But of course Hay did not mention that Russian websites don’t have to obey British data protection law.

And next the BBFC will have a crack at reducing people’s fears

Elsewhere in the discussion, Hay suggested the British Board of Film and Internet Censorship could mandate that each site had to offer more than one age-verification provider, which would give consumers more choice.

Next the BBFC will have a crack at minimising people’s fears about age verification. It will publish its own guidance document towards the end of the month, and launch a public consultation about it.

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DCMS logoIn a press release the DCMS describes its digital strategy including a delayed introduction of internet porn censorship. The press release states:

The Strategy also reflects the Government’s ambition to make the internet safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.

Our priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.

For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.

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bbfc appointed The DCMS has published a letter dated 21st February 2018 that officially appoints the BBFC as its internet porn censor. It euphemistically describes the role as an age verification regulator.Presumably a few press releases will follow and now the BBFC can at least be expected to comment on how the censorship will be implemented..

The enforcement has previously being noted as starting around late April or early May but this does not seem to give sufficient time for the required software to be implemented by websites.