Age verification is a problem that, deservedly, won’t go away. So why is it proving so hard to get right?
The terrible events that unfurled in Westminster and led to Parliament being suspended, might have a knock-on effect on the Digital Economy Bill which was having its last day reading in the report stage. Although the bill itself was passed last year, it won’t become law until after possible amendments have been debated, which is due to happen later this month.
One of the most controversial things covered by the bill involves age verification. It will, as it stands, force ISPs in the UK to block access to porn sites that cannot verify their users are over 18.
A debate on the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme has added fuel to the fire by suggesting that existing US legislation, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), isn’t taken seriously by companies. That children under the age of 13 routinely click through sites covered by COPPA is, frankly, no surprise. Research from Ofcom last year that revealed a third of users as young as 12 were exposed to hate speech was equally unsurprising.
It appears that everyone has an angle on age verification, but few understand how to implement a system that actually works. Given that enterprise organisations may find themselves required to implement age verification on public facing websites, it’s an area that deserves some further discussion.