Archive for the ‘Age Verification’ Category

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information commissioners office logo Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner Information Commissioner’s Office,

Dear Commissioner Denham,

Re: The Draft Age Appropriate Design Code for Online Services

We write to you as civil society organisations who work to promote human rights, both offline and online. As such, we are taking a keen interest in the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code. We are also engaging with the Government in its White Paper on Online Harms, and note the connection between these initiatives.

Whilst we recognise and support the ICO’s aims of protecting and upholding children’s rights online, we have severe concerns that as currently drafted the Code will not achieve these objectives. There is a real risk that implementation of the Code will result in widespread age verification across websites, apps and other online services, which will lead to increased data profiling of both children and adults, and restrictions on their freedom of expression and access to information.

The ICO contends that age verification is not a silver bullet for compliance with the Code, but it is difficult to conceive how online service providers could realistically fulfil the requirement to be age-appropriate without implementing some form of onboarding age verification process. The practical impact of the Code as it stands is that either all users will have to access online services via a sorting age-gate or adult users will have to access the lowest common denominator version of services with an option to age-gate up. This creates a de facto compulsory requirement for age-verification, which in turn puts in place a de facto restriction for both children and adults on access to online content.

Requiring all adults to verify they are over 18 in order to access everyday online services is a disproportionate response to the aim of protecting children online and violates fundamental rights. It carries significant risks of tracking, data breach and fraud. It creates digital exclusion for individuals unable to meet requirements to show formal identification documents. Where age-gating also applies to under-18s, this violation and exclusion is magnified. It will put an onerous burden on small-to-medium enterprises, which will ultimately entrench the market dominance of large tech companies and lessen choice and agency for both children and adults — this outcome would be the antithesis of encouraging diversity and innovation.

In its response to the June 2018 Call for Views on the Code, the ICO recognised that there are complexities surrounding age verification, yet the draft Code text fails to engage with any of these. It would be a poor outcome for fundamental rights and a poor message to children about the intrinsic value of these for all if children’s safeguarding was to come at the expense of free expression and equal privacy protection for adults, including adults in vulnerable positions for whom such protections have particular importance.

Mass age-gating will not solve the issues the ICO wishes to address with the Code and will instead create further problems. We urge you to drop this dangerous idea.

Yours sincerely,

Open Rights Group
Index on Censorship
Article19
Big Brother Watch
Global Partners Digital

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firefox logo Age verification for porn is pushing internet users into areas of the internet that provide more privacy, security and resistance to censorship.I’d have thought that security services would prefer that internet users to remain in the more open areas of the internet for easier snooping.

So I wonder if it protecting kids from stumbling across porn is worth the increased difficulty in monitoring terrorists and the like? Or perhaps GCHQ can already see through the encrypted internet.

RQ12: Privacy & Security for Firefox

Mozilla has an interest in potentially integrating more of Tor into Firefox, for the purposes of providing a Super Private Browsing (SPB) mode for our users.

Tor offers privacy and anonymity on the Web, features which are sorely needed in the modern era of mass surveillance, tracking and fingerprinting. However, enabling a large number of additional users to make use of the Tor network requires solving for inefficiencies currently present in Tor so as to make the protocol optimal to deploy at scale. Academic research is just getting started with regards to investigating alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols, such as Tor-over-QUIC, employing DTLS, and Walking Onions.

What alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols would offer acceptable gains in Tor performance? And would they preserve Tor properties? Is it truly possible to deploy Tor at scale? And what would the full integration of Tor and Firefox look like?

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channel islands government logo As of 15 July, people in the UK who try to access porn on the internet will be required to verify their age or identity online.

The new UK Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018 law does not affect the Channel Islands but the States have not ruled out introducing their own regulations.

The UK Department for Censorship, Media and Sport said it was working closely with the Crown Dependencies to make the necessary arrangements for the extension of this legislation to the Channel Islands.

A spokeswoman for the States said they were monitoring the situation in the UK to inform our own policy development in this area.

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bbfc age verification standard The BBFC has published a detailed standard for age verifiers to get tested against to obtain a green AV kite mark aiming to convince users that their identity data and porn browsing history is safe.I have read through the document and conclude that it is indeed a rigorous standard that I guess will be pretty tough for companies to obtain. I would say it would be almost impossible for a small or even medium size website to achieve the standard and more or less means that using an age verification service is mandatory.

The standard has lots of good stuff about physical security of data and vetting of staff access to the data.

Age verifier AVSecure commented:

We received the final documents and terms for the BBFC certification scheme for age verification providers last Friday. This has had significant input from various Government bodies including DCMS (Dept for Culture, Media & Sport), NCC Group plc (expert security and audit firm), GCHQ (UK Intelligence & Security Agency) ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and of course the BBFC (the regulator).

The scheme appears to have very strict rules.

It is a multi-disciplined scheme which includes penetration testing, full and detailed audits, operational procedures over and above GDPR and the DPA 2018 (Data Protection Act). There are onerous reporting obligations with inspection rights attached. It is also a very costly scheme when compared to other quality standard schemes, again perhaps designed to deter the faint of heart or shallow of pocket.

Consumers will likely be advised against using any systems or methods where the prominent green AV accreditation kitemark symbol is not displayed.

 

But will the age verifier be logging your ID data and browsing history?

neblairl And the answer is very hard to pin down from the document. At first read it suggests that minimal data will be retained, but a more sceptical read, connecting a few paragraphs together suggests that the verifier will be required to keep extensive records about the users porn activity.

Maybe this is a reflection of a recent change of heart. Comments from AVSecure suggested that the BBFC/Government originally mandated a log of user activity but recently decided that keeping a log or not is down to the age verifier.

As an example of the rather evasive requirements:

8.5.9 Physical Location

Personal data relating to the physical location of a user shall not be collected as part of the age-verification process unless required for fraud prevention and detection. Personal data relating to the physical location of a user shall only be retained for as long as required for fraud prevention and detection.

Here it sounds like keeping tabs on location is optional, but another paragraph suggest otherwise:

8.4.14 Fraud Prevention and Detection

Real-time intelligent monitoring and fraud prevention and detection systems shall be used for age-verification checks completed by the age-verification provider.

Now it seems that the fraud prevention is mandatory, and so a location record is mandatory after all.

Also the use off the phrase only be retained for as long as required for fraud prevention and detection. seems a little misleading too, as in reality fraud prevention will be required for as long as the customer keeps on using it. This may as well be forever.

There are other statements that sound good at first read, but don’t really offer anything substantial:

8.5.6 Data Minimisation

Only the minimum amount of personal data required to verify a user’s age shall be collected.

But if the minimum is to provide name and address + eg a drivers licence number or a credit card number then the minimum is actually pretty much all of it. In fact there are only the porn pass methods that offer any scope for ‘truely minimal’ data collection. Perhaps the minimal data also applies to the verified mobile phone method as although the phone company probably knows your identity, then maybe they won’t need to pass it on to the age verifier.

 

What does the porn site get to know

pornhub logo The rare unequivocal and reassuring statement is

8.5.8 Sharing Results

Age-verification providers shall only share the result of an age-verification check (pass or fail) with the requesting website.

So it seems that identity details won’t be passed to the websites themselves.

However the converse is not so clear:

8.5.6 Data Minimisation

Information about the requesting website that the user has visited shall not be collected against the user’s activity.

Why add the phrase, against the user’s activity. This is worded such that information about the requesting website could indeed be collected for another reason, fraud detection maybe.

Maybe the scope for an age verifier to maintain a complete log of porn viewing is limited more by the practical requirement for a website to record a successful age verification in a cookie such that the age verifier only gets to see one interaction with each website.

No doubt we shall soon find out whether the government wants a detailed log of porn viewed, as it  will be easy to spot if a website queries the age verifier for every film you watch.
Fraud Detection

And what about all this reference to fraud detection. Presumably the BBFC/Government is a little worried that passwords and accounts will be shared by enterprising kids. But on the other hand it may make life tricky for those using shared devices, or perhaps those who suddenly move from London to New York in an instant, when in fact this is totally normal for someone using a VPN on a PC.
Wrap up

The BBFC/Government have moved on a long way from the early days when the lawmakers created the law without any real protection for porn users and the BBFC first proposed that this could be rectified by asking porn companies to voluntarilyfollow ‘best practice’ in keeping people’s data safe.

A definite improvement now, but I think I will stick to my VPN.

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VPNCompare is reporting that internet users in Britain are responding to the upcoming porn censorship regime by investigating the option to get a VPN so as to workaround most age verification requirements without handing over dangerous identity details.VPNCompare says that the number of UK visitors to its website has increased by 55% since the start date of the censorship scheme was announced. The website also sated that Google searches for VPNs had trippled. Website editor, Christopher Seward told the Independent:

We saw a 55 per cent increase in UK visitors alone compared to the same period the previous day. As the start date for the new regime draws closer, we can expect this number to rise even further and the number of VPN users in the UK is likely to go through the roof.

The UK Government has completely failed to consider the fact that VPNs can be easily used to get around blocks such as these.

Whilst the immediate assumption is that porn viewers will reach for a VPN to avoid handing over dangerous identity information, there may be another reason to take out a VPN, a lack of choice of appropriate options for age validation.

3 companies run the 6 biggest adult websites. Mindgeek owns Pornhub, RedTube and Youporn. Then there is Xhamster and finally Xvideos and xnxx are connected.

Now Mindgeek has announced that it will partner with Portes Card for age verification, which has options for identity verification, giving a age verified mobile phone number, or else buying  a voucher in a shop and showing age ID to the shop keeper (which is hopefully not copied or recorded).

Meanwhile Xhamster has announced that it is partnering with 1Account which accepts a verified mobile phone, credit card, debit card, or UK drivers licence. It does not seem to have an option for anonymous verification beyond a phone being age verified without having to show ID.

Perhaps most interestingly is that both of these age verifiers are smart phone based apps. Perhaps the only option for people without a phone is to get a VPN. I also spotted that most age verification providers that I have looked at seem to be only interested in UK cards, drivers licences or passports. I’d have thought there may be legal issues in not accepting EU equivalents. But foreigners may also be in the situation of not being able to age verify and so need a VPN.

And of course the very fact that is no age verification option common to the major porn website then it may just turn out to be an awful lot simpler just to get a VPN.

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is it safe The Interrogator :

Is it safe?

The BBFC (on its Age Verification website)…err…no!…:

An assessment and accreditation under the AVC is not a guarantee that the age-verification provider and its solution (including its third party companies) comply with the relevant legislation and standards, or that all data is safe from malicious or criminal interference.

Accordingly the BBFC shall not be responsible for any losses, damages, liabilities or claims of whatever nature, direct or indirect, suffered by any age-verification provider, pornography services or consumers/ users of age-verification provider’s services or pornography services or any other person as a result of their reliance on the fact that an age-verification provider has been assessed under the scheme and has obtained an Age-verification Certificate or otherwise in connection with the scheme.

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bbfc av graphic logo The UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for online pornography when the measures come into force on 15 July 2019.It means that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over.

Websites that fail to implement age-verification technology face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws. They have confirmed that they will begin enforcement on 15 July, following an implementation period to allow websites time to comply with the new standards.

Minister for Digital Margot James said that she wanted the UK to be the most censored place in the world to b eonline:

Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.

Government has listened carefully to privacy concerns and is clear that age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. In addition to the requirement for all age-verification providers to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards, the BBFC have created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of AV providers. The AVC has been developed in cooperation with industry, with input from government.

Certified age-verification solutions which offer these robust data protection conditions will be certified following an independent assessment and will carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol. Details will also be published on the BBFC’s age-verification website, ageverificationregulator.com so consumers can make an informed choice between age-verification providers.

BBFC Chief Executive David Austin said:

The introduction of age-verification to restrict access to commercial pornographic websites to adults is a ground breaking child protection measure. Age-verification will help prevent children from accessing pornographic content online and means the UK is leading the way in internet safety.

On entry into force, consumers will be able to identify that an age-verification provider has met rigorous security and data checks if they carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol.

The change in law is part of the Government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, especially for children. It follows last week’s publication of the Online Harms White Paper which set out clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe online, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not.