News Flash: World First For Online Age Verification

UK government to introduce controls to stop children from accessing online pornography

A new UK law, which comes into force on July 15, will require commercial providers of online pornography to check that users are 18 or over. “Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online,” Minister for Digital Margot James said in a statement issued by the UK government, describing the mandatory scheme as “a world-first.” The statement said that websites that fail to implement age-verification technology face having “payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users.”

There will be multiple age-verification options available, the UK government stressed, adding: “These checks will be rigorous – you won’t be able to just type in your date of birth or tick a box. Age-verification solutions range from the use of traditional ID documents online (for example, credit cards or passports) to mobile phones where the adult filters have been removed. Users can also use digital IDs or buy a card over the counter in a shop where the verification is face to face.”

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws, says it will actively assess individual age-verification arrangements to test their effectiveness and robustness. In response to privacy concerns, the UK government said the new scheme will only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. The BBFC has created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of age verification providers. Certified age-verification solutions will carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol.

However, there has been criticism of the new UK laws, with some commentators believing it could lead to “catastrophic” data breaches, while other sceptics claim the age verification measures will be easy to circumvent using virtual private networks (VPNs) and other tools. Many of the objections are outlined in this Forbes article.

For more information, please see the UK government statement