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Proposed age verification bills across US online privacy, anonymity debate

Proposed age verification bills across US online privacy, anonymity debate

Moves by some state houses of representatives in the United States to put in place laws that restrict access to social media and adult content sites by children are sparking a debate over online privacy and anonymity.

Bloomberg Law in a report notes that more than 20 state legislatures in the country have proposed bills which are at different levels all aimed at introducing age verification for social media and adult content websites access and the reaction from some stakeholders has been varied.

The states of Arkansas and Utah recently made such proposals.

The nature of the proposed laws in terms of minimum age, the process to be used to determine the age, as well as sanctions varies from state to state.

With regard to data privacy and security, the point of worry is whether such online age checks will be done without individuals having to give up much of their personal data or other sensitive personal information.

The draft laws, according to Bloomberg Law, are in line with a measure from President Joe Biden calling for a ban on ads targeting kids. Some of them provide for fines of up to $250,000 for entities which fail to abide by the child protection legislations.

Some of the proposals pending in the state houses are largely modeled in the way of California’s own legislation – the age-appropriate design code — which outlines safeguards for the protection of children under the age of 18 from internet harm, without necessarily infringing on their digital rights, writes Bloomberg Law.

Lawmakers in these concerned states, who are in favor of the age verification proposals, hold that such measures are necessary as children in the United States are currently not fully protected from online abuse.

The California law, according to expert, has its grey areas notwithstanding and it is facing a legal challenge from technology industry group NetChoice seeking its blockage.

Although some of the online safeguards at the federal level apply to children 13 years old and below, a number of these states believe this has to be taken up to 18 with some of them planning stricter age checks that will require the use of ID cards, especially for access to adult website content.

Further, some of the states such as Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, are also said to be proposing new standards for online privacy, the outlet indicates.

Texas is mentioned as an example of states whose proposed legislations seek to make the use of social media only possible for people who are 18 years and above, while those seeking age control for adult content include the states of Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina.

Official suggests facial recognition for child gaming control

Age verification has been steadily gaining ground in many countries around the world.

In a related story, a video gaming industry official outfit says it is in favor of preserving current age restriction rules in China for children as part of efforts to avoid gaming addiction, says Ao Ran, secretary general of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association, the semi-official body representing the gaming industry in the country.

Per South China Morning Post, protecting children from gaming harm remains a priority and authorities have the responsibility to improve the existing measures so as to enhance the level of protection. The official said parents also have a role in preventing their children from being exposed to such harms.

Speaking at an annual conference in Guangzhou, Ran said measures to protect minors from gaming addictions must be maintained, even suggesting that the use of facial recognition technology is necessary if companies must fully implement the requirements from regulators.

The association noted in its recent report that over 75 percent of gamers below the age of 18 in China were limited to three hours of gaming time per day, saying it is significant progress in its strategy to contain child gaming addiction.

The call comes just months after the China eased the licensing procedure for gaming companies.

France is also considering age verification technology to regulate access to porn sites.

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