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Age verification faces ongoing delay

Posted at 11:30 on 22 Jun 2019 by Pandora / Blake

According to the Guardian, age verification "faces indefinite delay" due to bureaucratic incompetence:

"It is set to be delayed for legal reasons after government officials failed to notify the European commission of key details."

I shouldn't laugh, but this is comedy gold.

The massive privacy failings of this policy should have been a deal-breaker. Legislators should never have tried to regulate the internet by force of law when they don't understand how it works. Thanks to the tireless efforts of campaigners such as myself, Myles Jackman, Jim Killock, Alec Muffett and the rest of Open Rights Group, Backlash UK, Misha Mayfair and others, the threat that age verification represents to the privacy of internet users is well attested, and is now mentioned in any news coverage about the issue.

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Dreams of Spanking, in the news, law, legislation, MindGeek, Myles Jackman, Open Rights Group, porn, privacy

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How not to build a data security system

Posted at 17:00 on 14 Dec 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Information security expert Alec Muffett has posted an essay analysing the data security proposals of the BBFC with regards to Age Verification - including some damning commentary on the fact that all parties responsible for implementing AV are blithely ignoring the legal sensitivity of the data involved under the Data Protection Act:

The UK Government has passed the Data Protection Act (DPA) which guarantees sensitive “…processing of data concerning an individual’s sex life or sexual orientation” — §86.7e — and yet apparently nobody wishes to consider that if a person regularly age-verifies in order to access “ireallylikegayporn.com”, the resulting metadata trail will clearly constitute “data concerning [their] sex life or sexual orientation”. 


He explains why the April 2019 deadline for enforcement is so rushed as to preclude any sensible security consultation, and gives a good analysis of the deficiencies of the proposed data security mechanisms for AV with reference to the benchmark provided by credit card security standards.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, Digital Economy Act, privacy, security

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Age verification: new definition of "commercial" sites

Posted at 21:10 on 11 Oct 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Circumstances in which pornographic material is to be regarded as being made available on a commercial basis

The latest (and, I think, final) update to the Digital Economy Act has been laid in draft for approval: a Statutory Instrument defining the scope of "making pornographic material on a commercial basis". In the Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018, the Government specify in more detail which websites will have to comply with age verification:

  • Only websites where at least 33% of the content is pornographic material;
  • And only if the website is marketed as a pornographic website.

If your website is not "marketed as an internet site... by means of which pornographic material is made available to persons in the United Kingdom" (ie it's not advertised as being a porn site) and if "pornographic material makes up less than one-third of the content", the website is exempt from age verification and does not have to comply.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, in the news, politics, porn, sex worker rights

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BDSM Ethics and Practice, and other training for the BBFC

Posted at 17:00 on 14 Sep 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Last week I was invited to visit the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and deliver a half day of training. This was something of a coup. Three years ago, my ethical porn website had just been closed down by the previous online porn regulator, due to my films contravening guidelines maintained by the BBFC. Now, the new online porn regulator were asking me to come and deliver an expert briefing to their compliance team about BDSM, its ethics and practice, and my recommendations regarding the way BDSM films are regulated.

It was an amazing opportunity to meet the people making decisions that affects filmmakers like me, talk to them about the issues, and create a shared context. I was excited to have the chance to share my knowledge and experience to help the team's understanding as they make classification recommendations on BDSM content.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, BDSM, consent, ethics

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BBFC told it isn't up to the challenge

Posted at 13:00 on 12 May 2018 by Pandora / Blake

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.
  • The Open Rights Group also submitted a weighty response that offered a deep dive into the privacy and security risks of age verification.
  • Security expert Alec Muffett, who also sits on the Board of Directors of ORG, wrote this punchy response highlighting the discrepancy between the security protocol in place for credit card transactions, and the lack of security requirements for age verification tools - which collect far more sensitive data with no means of redress in the case of someone being publically outed.
  • Backlash submitted a tremendously forceful response emphasising the extraordinary risk to individuals' privacy, and holding the BBFC to account for preventing another "Ashley Madison" style hack of even greater magnitude - which would have devastating consequences for millions of UK adults.
  • As well as helping out behind the scenes with the ORG and Backlash responses, after talking through the issues with Myles Jackman I submitted a response on behalf of both of us, which attempts a thorough review of the freedom of expression, privacy and security risks of age verification. It goes into detail about the impact of the policy on low traffic porn sites and independent sex workers, and the lack of credible evidence supporting age verification.

I'm delighted to hear that many other notable community members including Professor Clarissa Smith and Vex Ashley submitted responses which no doubt add their own forceful arguments against the implementation of age verification in its current form. I wanted to highlight a couple of exceptional responses from individuals which were shared publicly.

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Tags: age verification, Backlash, BBFC, consultation, Myles Jackman, Open Rights Group

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Response to the BBFC consultation on age verification

Posted at 08:00 on 24 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

I sent a response to the BBFC consultation on their draft guidance on age verificationon behalf of myself and obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman.

Table of Contents

  • Do you agree with the BBFC's Approach as set out in Chapter 2?

    • Child protection

    • The scope of the legislation

      • Out-dated classification guidelines
      • “Frequently visited”
      • Extreme pornographic material
      • Indecent images of children
    • Right of Appeal

    • Sanctions and disproportionality

    • Impact on low-traffic websites

      • Financial impact
      • Lack of technical resources
      • Social benefits of online sexuality communities
      • Impact on diversity and freedom of expression
      • Proposals
    • Impact on independent sex workers

  • Do you agree with the BBFC's Age-verification Standards set out in Chapter 3?

    • Privacy “recommendations” are unenforceable

    • Risk of social exclusion

    • Collection and retention of data

      • Conflict of interest
      • Risks associated with data breaches
      • Lack of redress
  • Do you have any comments with regards to Chapter 4?

    • Insufficient security standards

      • PCI-DSS
      • PAS 1296
      • Data protection
    • Regulatory oversight

    • Conclusion

Click here to read the full consultation response.

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, BBFC, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, ICO, MindGeek, Myles Jackman, privacy, security, sex worker rights

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Tell the BBFC age verification will do more harm than good

Posted at 12:34 on 19 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

By the end of this year, the Government is planning to enforce new rules requiring anyone in the UK to prove their age before looking at pornographic websites. Young people deserve our protection and support, but there is no evidence that these measures will do anything to keep children safe - and meanwhile, the Government are reducing funding for sex education, schools, libraries and youth clubs, indicating that they are more interested in blocking access to pornography and controlling the Internet than in truly helping young people.

The Government is leaving it to private companies to handle age verification, enabling these companies to collect databases of the porn browsing habits of UK adults which could be leaked or hacked. Despite these risks, the regulations contain no strong requirements for age verification tools to protect user privacy.

The regulator is holding a public consultation which is open until next Monday, April 23.  We need as many individuals as possible to respond to the consultation. Would you please add your voice using the resources below, and share these links with your networks? Even a quick response in favour of increased privacy requirements would be enormously valuable.

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, BBFC, MindGeek, Open Rights Group

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Strong privacy is a must for age verification tech

Posted at 15:23 on 18 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group are urging people to respond to the BBFC public consultation on their age verification guidelines.

The Government is about to require all UK internet users to verify they are over 18 to be able to view pornography. This will likely require users to use documents like a passport, credit card, or driving license to prove their age to the site.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, Digital Economy Act, Open Rights Group, privacy

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DCMS pass the buck on age verification

Posted at 16:00 on 9 Jan 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Queer porn maker infiltrating Parliament: Pandora Blake visits the DCMS

Before Christmas I met the DCMS to talk to them about age verification, and try and get some answers out of them. Here's what I learned.

Who will have to comply?

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Tags: age verification, audio, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, MindGeek, privacy, security

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Do you trust PornHub with a database of your sexual preferences?

Posted at 22:20 on 16 Nov 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Mindgeek: Big data

The more I learn about age verification, the worse an idea it seems to be. I’ve written before about the logistical problems with the policy, especially in light of the proposed enforcement deadline of 27 April 2018. We still don’t know how it will be enforced, who the regulator will be, or what will be considered compliant; and there are lengthy Parliamentary processes to be completed before we can find out.

Meanwhile the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the British Board of Film Classification (who are tipped to be the new regulator) are refusing to engage. I recently organised a roundtable of security experts, privacy campaigners, site owners and age verification providers to share knowledge and discuss the issues, and both DCMS and BBFC declined to attend. The DCMS are also refusing to answer my questions via email.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, DPA, Mindgeek, privacy, security

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