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Online privacy and age checks

Posted at 10:11 on 12 Feb 2020 by Pandora / Blake

The ICO have released their new "Age appropriate design", a new statutory code of practice, which aims to keep children safe online in the age of social media. It affects websites likely to be accessed by children in the UK, which will be obliged to account for the "best interests" of the child, and to grant special protection to how childrens' data is used.

Links:

Full code of practice

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Tags: age verification, child safety, ICO, in the news, privacy, young people

51 comments

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

122 comments

Privacy blunder as govt announces age verification commencement date

Posted at 12:28 on 19 Apr 2019 by Pandora / Blake

This week the DCMS announced that age verification will come into effect on 15 July 2019. Hilariously, they can't even send out a press release without making an embarrassing privacy mistake. From the Guardian this week: 

"Unfortunately for the government’s attempts to calm fears on the privacy issue, the news was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport in an email that exposed the contact details of almost 300 recipients. DCMS was also responsible for implementing the new GDPR laws in the UK, which mandate large financial penalties for breaches that expose personal data."

We don't even need Private Eye - DCMS are more than capable of satirising themselves.  

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Tags: age verification, DCMS, in the news, media, Open Rights Group, privacy

218 comments

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

49 comments

What's going on with age verification?

Posted at 09:00 on 29 Jan 2019 by Pandora / Blake

If you're in London, the best way to answer this question is to attend Skeptics in the Pub next Monday, at The Monarch in Camden.

Obscenity Lawyer Myles Jackman asks what the truth behind age verification is by exposing the arguments, history and impacts of balancing child protection against adult free speech and privacy rights.

The Digital Economy Act 2017, which comes into force this March, will compel adult pornography websites in the UK to verify that their users are over the age of 18. This measure was predicated on the assumption that it would prevent under 18’s being “harmed” by pornography; yet has potentially disastrous unintended consequences for adult privacy and the free speech ecosystem. 

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Tags: age verification, events, Myles Jackman

9 comments

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

5 comments

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

11 comments

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

6 comments

Porn star Misha Mayfair and activist Pandora Blake warn adults about age verification

Posted at 10:16 on 10 Sep 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Porn star Misha Mayfair and activist Pandora Blake present Curtains for Privacy: a safe-for-work satirical sexual exposé of the privacy risks presented by Government’s new age verification rules.

Mayfair and Blake appear in the viral video, released by ResistAV today, draped naked in net curtains as they warn of the risk of UK adults being outed under the Digital Economy Act 2017’s age verification requirements, with the punch line: “It’ll be curtains for personal privacy”.

The video heralds the launch of a crowd funding campaign on the CrowdJustice platform, to raise legal fees to challenge the age verification régime, designed by obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman.

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Tags: age verification, Backlash, Misha Mayfair, Myles Jackman, press release, privacy, ResistAV

7 comments

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.

Keep reading »

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

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