UK ISP Internet Porn Ban Potentially Delayed Until Late 2019

censored access internet

The Government has admitted that its controversial new internet age verification system – targeted at commercial websites and “apps” that contain pornographic content – probably won’t be enforced on 1st April as planned and may not now be ready until before “the end of the year.”

The system (see our summary), which would require broadband ISPs to block sites that fail to comply with the rules, has been beset by concerns over weak privacy controls (e.g. handing passports and payment details to companies linked with porn peddlers = incredibly dumb), costs, the impact upon sex workers (i.e. pushing them off-line and back onto the streets), freedom of expression and technical limitations (easy to circumvent).

Meanwhile many have questioned whether it’s even necessary since Sky Broadband, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and other ISPs already offer optional network-level filtering systems, which work just fine. However until now the Government, despite being aware of the flaws in their approach, have continued to target its enforcement for 1st April 2019 (this was already a big delay). At least they did until today.

A DCMS Spokesperson said (Standard):

“Our priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right.

It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.”

Serge Acker, CEO of OCL and Portes (Producer of AgeID PortesCard), said:

“The restrictions coming into force as part of the Government’s 2017 Digital Economy Act will fundamentally change people use the internet and the proposed roll-out has already led to mass confusion over privacy concerns and how users will be able to continue to access sensitive information when the law comes into place.

News of a delay is disappointing, if unsurprising. Most age verification techniques aren’t fit for purpose and often treat privacy as a nice-to-have rather than a right. They typically require users to hand over personal information – from dates of birth to copies of passports – that could easily be misused or accessed in data hacks. Users don’t know how this data is stored, what it’s going to be used for or who has access to it. Focusing on status verification vs data collection for ager verification could finally makes privacy a fundamental right, not a nice-to-have.

There is a need for urgency when it comes to the AV law for adult content because this law seeps into other areas. Delaying it for adult content, means a delay for other platforms – especially for social media. Snapchat has recently admitted they can’t do age verification properly, certainly not without compromising privacy.

This delay should be the perfect opportunity for the Government and internet suppliers to ensure users are fully aware of alternative options. Status verification shouldn’t require so much personal data to be put in the hands of a third party. Users should have the ability to verify their status without handing over personal data to a third party who can’t guarantee it’s security.”

As we understand it the Government still expects to have the new system ready well before the end of this year, although clearly it won’t now be enforced from 1st April 2019. Perhaps Brexit has something to do with that since it seems to be keeping our MPs rather busy.

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