Plans to introduce mandatory age verification for adult entertainment websites and other digital services accessible to UK residents are reportedly to be shelved indefinitely, after having already been delayed by more than a year.

The UK Government raised the possibility of introducing a mandatory age verification system for adult entertainment back in February 2016, but in April - more than a year after it was supposed to have gone live - confirmed that it wouldn't be active until July this year. Under the planned system, commercial companies would be allowed to offer sites hosting primarily pornographic content paid-for verification systems which would validate the age of prospective punters; these service providers would be able to voluntarily submit to certification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to demonstrate their trustworthiness.

Critics warned of the issues behind giving both the government and private companies what would be, effectively, a verified database of UK adults and their pornographic preferences, especially given the government's often lax approach to privacy and security - the latter wonderfully demonstrated in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) press release back in April which leaked 300 UK and international technology journalists' email addresses thanks to misuse of the Carbon Copy header.

Now, mere weeks before the platform was due to go live, DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright is expected to tell Parliament that the plans have been shelved indefinitely. Originally broken by anonymous sources speaking to Sky News, a spokesperson for the government has refused to issue a denial of the claim while simultaneously confirming Wright's plans to address Parliament on the matter some time this morning.

'While it’s very embarrassing to delay age verification for the third time, this is an opportunity for the Government to address the many problems that this ill-thought through policy poses,' claims Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group which late last week published a report criticising the plan. 'Age verification providers have warned that they are not ready; the BBFC’s standard to protect data has been shown to be ineffective. The Government needs to use this delay to introduce legislation that will ensure the privacy and security of online users is protected.'

Thus far, it is not clear just how 'indefinite the indefinite delay to the age verification system will be.


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November 13 2019 | 09:50

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