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Biometric age verification easier legislated when no tech details mentioned

Biometric age verification easier legislated when no tech details mentioned
 

The age-verification/porn debate will never end because every law takes a freedom away and there’s always someone with a stricter moral code or purer definition of health.

That’s good for the biometrics industry.

Most governments will implement laws to prevent children younger than 18 from being exposed to pornography. And because few standards exist yet, the best elevator pitch — not market share – likely will prevail for a few more years.

Regardless of how public opinion shifts, short of the rare verification bans, vendors can count on revenue from new features that accommodate the new virtue.

It’s playing out today in Canada, the U.S. states of Florida and Indiana and the United Kingdom. In almost all cases, the arguments or bills do not discuss biometric methods of filtering children.

An article in the Financial Times in the UK describes completely human staging for Internet regulator Office of Communications as it prepares to enforce that nation’s Online Safety Act.

Ofcom has hired 350 online safety staff, according to the Times, and plans to bring in 100 more. Some of the new people are from senior posts at Google, Microsoft and Meta.

There is a lot of push for rapid action, which, again, is good for vendors in a market without a surfeit of biometric technical standards. ISO/IEC 27566 deals with age assurance, but is still in development. And there is money to spend now.

Ofcom has said it thinks it will cost £166 million (US$211.3 million) through March 2025.

Legislative debates across the Atlantic in Florida and Indiana are emotional, and not unexpectedly. There is growing evidence that children’s emotional lives are significantly harmed, and certainly, there is even physical harm when a minor is preyed upon online.

All the more reason for politicians and regulators to know how they will use biometric software to verify the age of internet users in dangerous neighborhoods. If only.

Here is an emotional save-the-children view in Canada pointing the suicide of a 12-year-old British Columbia boy. The article, in The Conversation, advocates for speedy calling for age-verification legislation known as Bill S-210, or the Protecting Young Person’s from Exposure to Pornography Act.

More thoughts on S-210, hits hard on the ban-censorship angle. In the piece, the author makes the case well that poorly crafted laws spread harm widely. But even though age verification lies at the core of this issue for children and adults, no tech talk.

A third entry, from Canada’s Policy Options publication, does discuss the mechanics of age verification, but mostly to say how hard enforcement will be. Noted.

Down in Florida, land of Good Laws Are Overwrought Laws, Florida Politics has reported on House Bill 3, intended to prevent minors’ access to harmful materials. Here, too, bill sponsors are calling only for “reasonable age verification.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has weighed in on a related Florida bill intended to regulate minors’ access to social media. Its entire argument could be summed up with a single sentence in a plea to legislators. “No ‘Reasonable age verification method’ currently exists.”

And, finally, an account by the Chicago Tribune in neighboring Illinois, notes that Indiana is considering four related bills. Unfortunately, the closest anyone quoted in the story got to how verification would work was recognition that a simple VPN can get around the regulation.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for a vendor to successfully make a case for its products, at least until the politicians can move beyond legitimate but not-very-useful emotions.

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Comments

One Reply to “Biometric age verification easier legislated when no tech details mentioned”

  1. We should of course remember that a VPN is not a get out of jail free card. Websites which are legally required to impose age assurance to prevent children in a given jursidiction from accessing adult content are still liable to prosecution or private claims for damages whether the child accesses their site directly, via a VPN, or with two paper cups and a piece of string. So they will need to consider applying age checks to at least all known VPN traffic to mitigate the risk it includes traffic from a state which requires AV, or ask users in states where there is no requirement to prove their location to a similar standard required to place a bet online.

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