It’s ba-ack… UK watchdog publishes age verification proposals

It's ba-ack... UK watchdog publishes age verification proposals

December 5, 2023 at 05:27AM

Ofcom proposes age verification methods like credit card checks and facial recognition to protect children online under the UK’s Online Safety Act. Privacy activists are concerned, while service providers face challenges balancing these checks with privacy laws. Final guidance is expected by early 2025.

Key Takeaways from Meeting Notes on Ofcom’s Guidance for the Online Safety Act:

1. Ofcom’s Role: The UK communications regulator, Ofcom, has set out guidance for online services on implementing age verification checks as part of the Online Safety Act.

2. Age Verification Proposals: These proposals include a variety of methods, such as credit card checks, facial age estimation, photo ID matching, open banking confirmation, mobile network operator age verification, and digital identity wallets.

3. Privacy Concerns: The introduction of such measures has raised concerns among privacy activists due to the potential for privacy infringement and the risk of sensitive data breaches.

4. Operator’s Dilemma: Service providers face a challenge in implementing these age checks effectively without violating privacy regulations.

5. Effectiveness and Evasion: Although some age verification methods are considered “highly effective,” there is skepticism about their ability to prevent determined teenagers from circumventing them, and there are concerns about the exposure of adults’ personal details.

6. Data Protection: Guidance includes aspects of data protection to ensure that operators protect user data when conducting age checks.

7. Previous Initiatives: The UK government has previously proposed similar age verification requirements, and there have been concerns about the creation of “jackpot” targets of citizen data when using third-party age verification service providers.

8. Policy and Insight: Ofcom’s CEO, Dame Melanie Dawes, emphasizes that accessible pornography to children must change and that self-declaration of age will not be considered a robust method of age verification.

9. Applicability: The rules apply to services with substantial ties to the UK, targeting the UK market or having a significant number of UK users.

10. VPN Links: Services must avoid providing information or links to VPN providers, potentially leading users to investigate VPN technology, which has its own associated risks.

11. Implementation Timeline: Final guidance is expected by early 2025, after which the government is anticipated to enforce the duties.

Please note that these points summarize the content of the meeting notes regarding the Ofcom guidance on age verification measures under the Online Safety Act. It is essential to follow any further updates or changes to the guidance that may occur after the mentioned time frame.

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