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Send Selfies to Watch Porn? UK Tries to Age-Gate Pornography

In a bid to create a safer online environment, the UK is exploring innovative ways to enforce age verification on adult content sites under the recently enacted Online Safety Act 2023.

As regulators grapple with the intersection of privacy concerns and technological advancements, the proposal raises questions about the potential impact on user privacy and the effectiveness of age-assurance methods.

One notable approach involves users sending a selfie of their adult selves to the government, with artificial intelligence (AI) acting as the arbiter of age. This novel method aims to ensure that individuals accessing adult content are of legal age, addressing concerns about children stumbling upon inappropriate material.

The proposal, buried within the Online Safety Act 2023, has ignited discussions about the balance between privacy rights and safeguarding children.

The Online Safety Act, which gained Royal Assent on October 26, mandates service providers to implement effective age verification methods. While various options are presented, including credit card verification and mobile network operator checks, the use of AI for age assessment has stirred controversy.

The UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, plays a crucial role in overseeing these measures. The regulator suggests that the chosen method must be derived from a trustworthy source, emphasizing reliability and stringent data protection adherence. Ofcom is cognizant of the potential privacy implications and urges service providers to continually refine and update their methods.

In a parallel development, Ofcom has released draft guidelines on age verification measures for pornography sites under the Online Safety Act. Recognizing the accessibility of explicit content to underage users, the regulator outlines measures such as bank or mobile network confirmation, credit card details verification, photo ID submission, and even “facial age estimation” technology. The guidelines aim to strike a balance between keeping children safe online and preserving privacy rights for adults.

This initiative comes over four years after a previous attempt to mandate age verification for pornography was scrapped due to privacy and technical concerns. Ofcom’s guidelines acknowledge these past challenges and attempt to provide a framework that is both effective and privacy-conscious.

While these measures are introduced with the intention of curbing underage access to explicit content, challenges such as VPN bypassing and potential data breaches remain. Critics, including digital rights campaigners, express concerns about the reliance on data protection laws and the need for clearer standards to protect user data.

As Ofcom finalizes its guidance in early 2025, the UK’s evolving stance on age verification in the digital realm reflects a broader global conversation about the balance between innovation, privacy, and protecting vulnerable users. The success and impact of these measures will undoubtedly shape future regulatory approaches in the dynamic landscape of online safety.

* Original content written by Coinlive. Coinbold is licensed to distribute this content by Coinlive.