Four companies that were developing age verification schemes for adult websites are suing the British government for scrapping the idea. The scheme aims to stop children from stumbling upon adult websites by verifying their age.
This scheme would have allowed the websites to verify their users’ ages or face a ban in the UK. British Culture Secretary, Baroness Morgan scrapped the scheme in October 2019 over privacy concerns.
The companies involved, AgeChecked, VeriMe, AVYourself, and AVSecure seek over £3m in compensation from the government.
Experts tout the blocking scheme as a way of stopping children from stumbling on such content on the internet.
Websites would have to compulsorily verify the age of its visitors. However, the proposal provides no clue on the method of verification.
Children’s charity the NSPCC, supported the proposal, saying:
“Exposure to p*********y can be damaging to young people’s views about s*x, body image, and healthy relationships.”
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However, critics have warned that children under the age of 18 could still bypass the restrictions. Adding that they could still seek adult content on sites like Twitter not covered by the plan.
Privacy was, however, an issue. There were also concerns that the scheme would require a driver’s license or other forms of Identification that could leave users vulnerable to a data breach.
Alastair Graham, Chief executive and Founder of AgeChecked, claims that these concerns have no legitimacy.
“The age verification sector developed technology to guarantee [the] privacy and data security for consumers, abiding by a new standard created by the British Standards Institution,” he said to the BBC.
Graham continued, “AgeChecked provides anonymous age verification, and it does not retain any personal data.”
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a UK-based organisation that campaigns for digital rights, says the government is being responsible by abandoning the plans.
“The adult industry has a terrible record on data security. We’re being asked to hope they don’t repeat the many, many times they have lost personal data, with the result that blackmail scams and worse proliferate,” he said.
Jim concluded by advising the government to effect the regulation first:
“Age verification must not be pushed forward until there is compulsory privacy regulation put in place.”
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