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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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Age verification enforcement delayed

Posted at 19:16 on 13 Mar 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Age verification for online porn has been delayed

The news broke on Sunday, with as quiet a splash as the Government could manage. Over the weekend the Government issued a press release about their digital strategy, with a focus on the rollout of 5G for mobile. It also sneakily contained the news that implementation of the age verification requirement has been delayed from 27th April until 'the end of the year'. It was buried in an unrelated announcement, presumably, because they didn't want too much of a fanfare about the climbdown. 

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. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.

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Tags: age verification, Digital Economy Act

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Behind the scenes with Myles Jackman

Posted at 09:32 on 21 Feb 2018 by Pandora / Blake

On Friday I got together with obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman and some like-minded friends to create a new campaign video for Backlash and raise awareness around age verification. Look out for the completed film coming in the next few weeks. We recorded this short and sweet video blog after the shoot to tell you what we've been up to. 

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Backlash UK, Digital Economy Act, MindGeek, privacy, security

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Privacy threat posed by AgeID hits the mainstream news

Posted at 19:53 on 9 Feb 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Pandora Blake talks about age verification on Sky News

One of the difficulties of campaigning in the arena of sex and sexuality is how difficult it is to get mainstream attention. Even when issues potentially affect the privacy and freedom of a majority of adults, most publications will post stuff related to sex as a lightweight "lifestyle" feature rather than as serious news.

So it was ground-breaking for Sky News to feature a report on the dangers of mandatory age verification, in particular the threat posed to personal privacy if MindGeek successfully establish a monopoly with their AgeID software. I watched the video as it was first broadcast live on the bus on my phone with my headphones on. It features an interview with me and - somewhat to my surprise - excerpts from my film trailers I had posted on YouTube. It's a trip to see (fully clothed) snippets from your indie porn films used to illustrate a mainstream news story - even more so when watching it on public transport!

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Digital Economy Act, in the news, media, MindGeek, porn, privacy, security

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I don't endorse age verification

Posted at 10:12 on 25 Jan 2018 by Pandora / Blake

So you'll have noticed that I've been spending a lot of time campaigning around age verification, and working to mitigate the harms threatened by Section 3 of the Digital Economy Act. I've been giving talks and interviews, meeting members of the DCMS, lobbying Parliamentarians and speaking with companies who are preparing age verification software, to advise them around privacy and security. (This work is funded by my Patreon supporters - and if you believe in what I'm doing, every contribution is appreciated.)

This work puts me in something of a conflicted position. I don't endorse age verification as a policy; I think it's poorly conceived, a solution looking for a problem. It rejects the results of the government's public consultation, in which more respondents answered responded against age verification than in favour. It's based on false claims - that young children regularly 'accidentally' stumble across online porn and suffer terrible psychological damage as a result - based on shoddy evidence that does not meet peer-reviewed standards.

On the basis of these arguments and more I've argued against age verification as a strategy since it was first proposed. Nonetheless, the Digital Economy Act became law last year and age verification will be enforced very soon – on 27th April in fact, if the announced deadline is upheld. In its current form, it's a hugely problematic policy. Not only is it poorly implemented, and full of ambiguities and inconsistencies, but there are well-documented concerns over privacy and security which must be taken seriously. I've outlined risks around data collection and storage, possible identity theft, data leaks or breaches, and malicious misuse of data for advertising or profiteering, to name a few – would you want a list of porn sites you have visited saved under your email address somewhere?

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Digital Economy Act, freedom of expression, MindGeek, privacy, security, sex education, young people

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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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Digital rights conference in London: ORGCon

Posted at 10:00 on 14 Sep 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Open Rights Group presents ORGCon - The Digital Fightback Begins

I'm really excited to be going back to ORGcon, the UK’s biggest digital rights conference. I haven't been since 2009, when I found it really inspiring and took away ideas that have stayed with me.

Myles Jackman and I will be sharing a 30-minute slot, covering how porn is "the canary in the coalmine" when it comes to free speech, the privacy risks of the Digital Economy Act, and where we go from here. I also hope to cover within that how porn censorship will impact upon members of marginalised communities, with a particular focus on queer sexuality - a subject close to my heart, and to many of yours I think.

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Tags: Age Verification, Digital Economy Act, events, ORGCon, Porn Censorship, talks

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Age verification - more questions than answers

Posted at 17:50 on 20 Aug 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Since the Digital Economy Act passed in April, age verification is coming to the UK - and the government have announced a deadline of April 2018. Thanks to the combined campaigning efforts of myself and various groups, we managed to get an amendment passed which averted the worst case scenario regarding prohibited content. But with web blocking still in place as a potential sanction, and no safeguards for user privacy, the Act still represents bad news for UK internet freedom.

I’m not the only one concerned about this. The Open Rights Group are also worried about the consequences of this badly-worded new law. This month I’ve had meetings with Executive Director Jim Killock and Legal Director Myles Jackman about age verification and what we can do about it. ORG have a long history campaigning for digital rights, and I've been a member for over ten years. We'll working together over the coming months to campaign on age verification and privacy, alongside my work with Backlash and as an independent voice.

I joined ORG in meeting Chris Ratcliff from the Digital Policy Alliance, the cross-party group consulting to the Government on the age verification policy, and also with a representative from the DCMS (the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - the ‘digital’ has been recently added), the branch of the civil service who are responsible for implementing it. The meetings were useful in allowing me both to make my concerns known, and ask questions to improve my understanding of the situation. Although I learned a lot, overall it seems that as far as age verification is concerned, there are still more questions than answers. 

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Tags: age verification, AVMS, BBFC, censorship, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, Digital Policy Alliance, digital rights, Mindgeek, obscenity, Ofcom, Open Rights Group, porn, porn law

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Age verification critiqued on Radio 4

Posted at 18:35 on 30 Jul 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Photo of credit cards, one of the potential means of age verification mentioned by Digital Minister Matt Hancock

So while I was away this month, I got cited by a Radio 4 presenter.

I listened to the segment on the BBC website after a heads up from some kind folks on Twitter. You can listen to it here until Wed 16 August - the relevant section begins at 32:51. Presenter Eddie Mair was interviewing Matt Hancock, the Digital Minister, about the age verification policy enshrined in the Digital Economy Act 2017. Unfortunately, Matt Hancock didn't come across very well. He sounded bumbling and under-informed, unable to give any clear answers about how age verification will work in practice. After claiming that age verification won't require giving any identifying information, the only means of verifying your age that he was able to think of were a passport and credit card - both of which involve revealing your identity, and exclude many marginalised adults without access to these documents from being able to look at porn. Not only that, but it's in doubt whether credit cards will be accepted by the regulator as a compliant form of age verification, as it's possible for under 18s to have them. Clearly Matt Hancock hasn't spent much time looking into this.

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Tags: age verification, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, in the news, interviews, Matt Hancock, media

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