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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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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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Sextech, Porn and the Law - event writeup and slides

Posted at 17:30 on 18 Oct 2017 by Pandora / Blake

The Regulatory Framework Controlling UK Porn - by Pandora / Blake

I very much enjoyed the SCL (Society for Computing and Law) event on Sextech, porn and the law last week. It was hosted by lawyer Neil Brown, and chaired by Daniel Cooper. There was a sizeable audience and four speakers in total; in addition to Neil and myself, Sarah Jamie Lewis and Dr Kate Devlin.

Dr Devlin kicked things off with an engaging talk about sex robots, one of her areas of research. She shared some of the hype and misinformation that the media tends to indulge in around sex robots, and why a lot of it is hyperbolic and sensationalist. She talked about what sex robots can and can't offer; including a preview of the Harmony bot which is being developed in California at the moment. Dr Devlin went to visit the lab working on this project, and she describes the robot as a beautifully crafted silicon sex doll with an animatronic face and a recorded voice controlled by AI. They've got an in-house AI team and the AI is apparently remarkably good; you can chat to Harmony. The robot head mounts onto the standard sex dolls, meaning the body is poseable, but doesn't move independently. Read Engadget's report on meeting Harmony here.

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Tags: anonymity, Dr Kate Devlin, events, law, obscenity, politics, porn, privacy, public speaking, queer politics, Sarah Jamie Lewis, sex robots, sex toys, talks

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The final shape of the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 18:37 on 18 Apr 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Since the Digital Economy Bill passed to the House of Lords a few months ago, I’ve been following its progress closely. I’ve also been doing my best to intervene in the amendment of the Bill by lobbying the Lords - specifically, sending out a briefing on behalf of Backlash after the second debate, before the Bill was discussed in committee. Each time any transcripts have been published, I’ve read them - and started writing blogposts about each stage of the debate. But I’m not a lawyer, and the passage of a Bill through Parliament is a dense legislative process. Honestly, it’s taken all of my capacity to read, digest and comprehend the Hansard transcripts; I didn't also manage to write succinct, accessible reports on the changes as they happened.

I'm going to have to ditch those half-written drafts now, because the Lords have voted on their final amendments to the Bill, and passed it back to the House of Commons for approval. Section 3 on age verification for online porn has changed in some significant ways. In theory there is still the opportunity for MPs to disagree with the changes and propose amendments of their own; bills can be passed back and forth between the Houses until agreement is reached. But realistically, with a General Election just having been announced for 8 June, it's very unlikely that there will be time for an extended game of legislative ping pong. It's much more likely that the Bill will be rushed through in wash-up without any further changes. So this draft is probably the final shape of the forthcoming Digital Economy Act 2017.

I’ve spent a couple of days reading up on the Lords committee report and third debate, and I think I understand them as well as I’m going to. So here’s my overview of the final shape of the Digital Economy Bill.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, cybersecurity, Digital Economy Bill, extreme porn legislation, lobbying, online harassment, privacy, prohibited content, slut-shaming, young people

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Written evidence submission to the Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 12:29 on 28 Oct 2016 by Pandora / Blake

Digital Economy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake (DEB 61)

 

Who we are

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, freedom of expression, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn, privacy, R18

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