IT'S WELL KNOWN IN TECH CIRCLES that imminent plans to introduce age verification to adult websites are just asking for trouble. But if the government has proved good at one thing this parliament, it's running enthusiastically towards a cliff-edge without thinking through the consequences, so in many ways, this is just business as usual.
For those fusspots that like to deal with imminent disaster before it blows up, a small glimmer of hope has appeared. It comes from feminist pornographer Pandora Blake and obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who are crowdfunding a legal challenge for compulsory age checks, fearing the implications for privacy and security.
ResistAV (AV meaning ‘age verification' - not the Alternative Vote, which was comprehensively resisted in 2011) is aiming to raise an initial £10,000 for initial legal advice, though the hope is to swell the coffers by considerably more in order to "send a message to Government that your personal privacy is of paramount importance."
I'm surely preaching to the choir here, but for those that don't know what the problem with age verification is in its current form, it's largely two-fold. Firstly the data has the potential for misuse written all over it. As Blake and Jackman put it: "If a company collects this kind of data, how might they use it to target you in future? Who might they be willing to sell it to?"
Even if you trust your mucky-film merchant of choice to neatly file away your data, it's still being collected, and that almost certainly means it'll be leaked at some point. Suffice it to say, having a verified person linked to a list of porn peccadillos is like the blackmailing Holy Grail. Or as Blake and Jackman write: "The leaking or hacking of this kind of sensitive information would be truly devastating; after the Ashley Madison hack, some of those affected committed suicide.
"One can only imagine the media appetite for the verified porn-watching history of a prominent MP, or disgraced teacher, or outed celebrity."
The rollout of age verification has already been kicked down the road once, as House of Commons arithmetic means that only legislation guaranteed to pass without fuss is being brought to the table: ‘this house believes that puppies are adorable' and the like. Nonetheless, the government has said it intends to bring in age verification laws this year. Or maybe later, once this whole Brexit boondoggle is out of the way, anyway.
So sometime in 2030, then. µ
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