Following on from my recent article relating to fears of a database breach which would hold all the data of users that have signed up to view online pornography, the government has announced that the proposed age check on pornographic website has been postponed, possibly until the end of the year. This is amid fears that the proposed measures could be watered down. Confirmation of the delay was buried deeply within a government press release about 5G over the weekend.

Adult websites were due to verify that visitors were over the age of 18, under laws set out in last year by the government’s Digital Economy Act. But, the regulator the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has yet to reveal how the checks would work. Over the weekend the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it now hoped the measures would be in place by the end of the year.

It also added that the guidelines will be subject to a consultation and a vote by MPs, raising the possibility that they could be challenged by opponents of the measures, such as the Open Rights Group.

“As it currently stands, there has been no information formally provided about how age verification should work.

Alex Haydock, head of legal at digital activists Open Rights Group (ORG) said before the delay.

Such opponents have expressed fears that these measures that force users to prove that they are over 18 by entering credit card details or entering other personal data, could endanger privacy and risks sending those under 18 towards the ‘dark web’ where more illegal and extreme material exists. This seems to enforced by The Telegraph’s poll on the subject where 91% of readers believe that privacy will be endangered and heightens the risk to children by the introduction of age verification.

A DCMS spokesman said:

“We are making age verification compulsory for commercial porn sites, as part of our work to make the internet a safer place for children. But we need to take the time to make sure we get it right if it’s going to work, and it will come into effect later this year.”

The BBFC is due to reveal it’s guidelines in the coming weeks, such as what methods can be used to prove a user’s age and how they will satisfy the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules coming into effect at the end of May. The methods are to possibly involve MindGeek’s AgeID software which has been in use in Germany since 2015. MindGeek, which owns Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn and Playboy TV has been the most proactive in pushing it’s tech. The company says it’s AgeID system will be made available for free to independent porn producers in the UK but other companies will have to pay for it. No details of how much AgeID will cost have revealed by MindGeek but it says websites with more visitors will have to pay higher charges.

Three porn websites, ManyVids, xHamster, and BongaCams, which all feature in the UK’s most visited websites say they will be using age verification technology but could not confirm which.

xHamster’s vice president Alex Hawkins said the company would introduce age verification even though he has “deep concerns” about the law.

“Unfortunately, we’re wary of many of the systems being put forth as solutions, most of which are profit-based. We have received a lot of assurances, but so far the transparency has been lacking.”

James Clark, a spokesperson for MindGeek, says it is “impossible to finalise” it’s AgeID software until the final regulations and guidance are published by the BBFC.

“We may test AgeID on a small sample of traffic prior to the law being enforced, but until we have final regulations, it’s impossible to do so.”

The age verification methods will then be consulted on and must be approved by parliament. Upon approval, these measures will not come into force for at least another three months. The government has said, that this will be towards the end of the year.

Website that fail to introduce checks risk being blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Sources

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/03/11/government-postpones-age-checks-porn-websites/
http://www.rjrstudios.co.uk/data-breach-inevitable-new-uk-porn-registration-laws/
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/porn-confusion-uk-digital-economy-act