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Adults will be required to provide credit card or passport information before being able to access social media sites, according to a threat issued by the British government this morning.
Internet use age verification, which was first proposed in the UK’s 2017 Digital Economy Act and then dropped, will be reinstated in the country’s Online Safety Bill, according to digital minister Chris Philp MP, who linked the technology, which has been widely criticized by privacy activists, to protecting children from pornography websites.
Government-targeted websites would be required to comply with “a new legal requirement” requiring them to “implement thorough checks to guarantee their viewers are 18 years old or older.”
The government attempted to imply that this will be implemented on specialized pornographic websites in its messaging.
However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated in fine print this morning that it will go farther than the failed Digital Economy Act. That statute “did not cover social media firms, where a significant amount of pornographic content is available and which research suggests youngsters utilize to obtain pornography,” according to the report.
Britons’ capacity to communicate with friends and family on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and probably any other site where users can publish their own material will be impacted by the new focus on social media corporations.
The statement from the DCMS read: “If sites fail to act, the independent regulator Ofcom has the power to punish them up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover or to prevent them from operating in the UK. If the owners of these websites refuse to cooperate with Ofcom, they may face criminal charges.”
The Adam Smith Institute’s head of research, Daniel Pryor, issued a statement condemning this morning’s news, saying: “In its misguided campaign against pornography, the government appears hell-bent on stifling civil freedoms. Any tech-savvy youngster with a VPN may simply get around age verification.”
“Adults would be obliged to submit personal information like passport or credit card details – a gift to scammers – and would be at higher danger of being caught off guard in the event of a data breach,” he continued, a warning that many Reg readers will recognize.
Similarly, the Open Rights Group began a campaign criticizing the government for its “determination to wage war” on encryption, a technology that must be halted and reversed if the Online Safety Bill’s goal of proactively scanning social media posts is to be realized.
“Contrary to what the Home Office claims, leading cybersecurity experts conclude that even message scanning ‘creates serious security and privacy risks for all society, while the assistance it can provide for law enforcement is at best problematic,” according to an open letter signed by former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Open Technology Institute. Backdoors provide a point of entry for hostile states, criminals, and terrorists to gain access to extremely sensitive data.
Asking consumers to disclose personal information to third parties over the internet raises a slew of technological and cultural challenges. However, the initiative was shelved due to privacy, technological, and legal concerns. The latest effort, through the Online Safety Bill, may encourage Britons to use VPNs and workarounds, which is potentially just as dangerous: free VPNs come with a lot of risks, and even commercial solutions may not always perform as advertised.
Critics criticized DCMS’s previous intentions for the Online Safety Bill to adjudicate information that it judged “legal but damaging,” arguing that “the definitions of the stuff [social media companies] have to manage out of existence… are imprecise, and set at a very low threshold.”
The Internal Revenue Service of the United States has scrapped a plan to use face recognition technology developed by a private contractor to verify the identity of US taxpayers after strong opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. IRS.gov accounts are presently verified using the controversial private facial recognition program ID.me.
“No one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access important government services,” Oregon senator Ron Wyden said, adding that “privacy and security are not mutually contradictory.”