DCMS Pushes Porn Age Verification Deadline Back “Indefinitely”

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The planned age verification scheme, which would have prevented access to pornographic material to anyone who was unable to prove their age, is to be delayed indefinitely.

According to Sky News, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Secretary Jeremy Wright is expected to announce the delay later today. The verification system was due to come into force on July 15, with website visitors expected to prove their age and identity by uploading scans of passports or driving licenses, or by using age-verification cards sold by newsagents.

Privacy lobbyists the Open Rights Group said “that the scheme provides little assurance to the 20 million adults that are estimated to watch porn in the UK” calling it a “privacy timebomb” as it would lead to a central database of identities which need to be maintained.

The Open Rights Group also said that as the standard was voluntary, there was no obligation for age verification providers to apply it, and no penalties for those verifiers who sign up to the standard and fail to meet its requirements.

Its executive director Jim Killock said: “While it’s very embarrassing to delay age verification for the third time, this is an opportunity for the Government to address the many problems that this ill-thought through policy poses.

“Age verification providers have warned that they are not ready; the BBFC’s standard to protect data has been shown to be ineffective. The Government needs to use this delay to introduce legislation that will ensure the privacy and security of online users is protected.”

Mishcon de Reya's Cyber Intelligence director Mark Tibbs said that while this is seemingly a good idea on the face of it, introducing a “porn block” based on age verification is likely to have a number of unintended consequences which could create more problems than it solves.

“If the Ashley Madison hack taught us anything, it's that a company which holds personal information about millions of users' sex lives will be a prime target for hackers and extortionists, regardless of how good security is,” he said.

“Underage porn seekers and even adults not wanting to give over their personal information are likely to quickly find services to hide their true identities and bypass the controls. It will possibly even drive determined porn seekers onto alternative platforms such as the dark web, which are harder for governments to regulate, and may be more likely to expose users to illegal content. It may even stimulate an illicit black market of stolen accounts and identities, giving budding hackers even more reason to steal online identities."

Infosecurity was joined by Jim Killock and psychotherapist Ronete Cohen for a discussion around the ethics of the age verification scheme during our last Online Summit. Listen again here.

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