Government Confirms Delay For Online Porn Age Checks

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The deadline for the government’s age verification tool has been pushed back to the end of the year over security and privacy fears

The government has admitted that the implementation of online age verification will be delayed until the end of year.

The proposed age check system had been intended to be enforceable by April this year, and it was designed to stop children from accessing online pornography.

Earlier this month the owner of popular porn websites including PornHub revealed its online age verification tool call AgeID that it said it would use to verify the age of people seeking online smut.

Delay confirmed

But that move raised data protection questions, and a lack of clear guidance from the government didn’t help matters, despite it formally designating the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) as the age verification regulator.

The government had previously said it would leave it up to the industry to create the age check software, but now it has recognised more time is needed to implement online age checking.

“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,” said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). “We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.”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 said. “It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.”

“We are making age verification compulsory for commercial porn sites, as part of our work to make the internet a safer place for children,” a spokesperson for DCMS told the Verge. “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.”

“This is a chance for the government to rethink the absence of safeguards for privacy and security, but it is frightening to consider that this policy was two weeks away from launch before it was pulled,” the Open Rights Group’s legal director, Myles Jackman told the BBC.

“[The government] needs to introduce powers to safeguard privacy immediately before this scheme causes real damage,” he added.

Cameron-era policy

The Conservatives under David Cameron promised age checks back in 2015 in an effort to stop children from accessing online porn.

The move by Cameron was highly controversial, as it assumed that parents could not be trusted to install parental control software.

And it should be noted that there are already opt-out internet filters introduced by the government in 2013, which were intended to help households control access to adult material, but unintentionally blocked educational resources such as sexual health websites.

All of this came despite the fact that in 2012, a survey by YouGov revealed that just one in four UK adults with children in their household was in favour of having a default porn filter.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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