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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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Age verification: Where do things stand?

Posted at 15:42 on 25 Mar 2019 by Pandora / Blake

After the Digital Economy Act passed in July 2017, implementation of age verification has been repeatedly delayed. We were initially told it would start being enforced in April 2018, but it was put back till the end of 2018. In November the Minister for Digital, Margot James, claimed that it will come into effect by Easter 2019, but as far as I know things aren't yet in place to enable the BBFC to begin enforcement.

This leaves website owners and viewers in a state of uncertainty, not knowing at what point they will need to start age verifying to access porn - or publish it. A recent YouGov survey showed that more than three-quarters of Brits have no idea this is even happening. Meanwhile, there are still irregularities and uncertainties with the policy, which I lay out in detail in my recent academic article: Age verification for online porn: more harm than good? My Patrons (at Ally tier and above) can access the full article here.

Which sites will have to comply?

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Tags: age verification, audio porn, Digital Economy Act, freedom of expression, in the news, media, Mindgeek, Open Rights Group, politics, porn, privacy, sex workers' rights

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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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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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Questions for the DCMS

Posted at 17:00 on 20 Dec 2017 by Pandora / Blake

How to get a meeting with the DCMS

I was recently invited to meet with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to discuss age verification.

I've been trying for a while to make this conversation happen. I'd previously connected with a couple of different members of the Child Internet Safety Team, the group responsible for implementing age verificiation - and then they moved onto other roles, leaving me without any active contacts. I first met with different representatives in collaboration with the UK Adult Producers trade association (UKAP), with the Open Rights Group - and more briefly at events organised by UKAP and the Adult Provider Network. Twice I was given email addresses and told to keep in touch, only to then have my emails ignored. No doubt they're busy people.

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Tags: age verification, DCMS, 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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