Australia Considers Facial Recognition for Age Verification
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The Australian government is considering introducing facial recognition technology to verify people’s identities before they can watch porn.

The crackdown, proposed by the Department of Home Affairs, could be introduced to ensure under-18s can’t access porn. Current law in Australia does not prohibit minors from viewing online pornography, but if enforced, the proposals could infringe citizens’ privacy.

Under the suggestions, an image of the user’s face would be matched to images from official identity documents in order to provide access to adult content. The department’s proposal doesn’t state exactly how the user would submit this photo, though.

The submission said: “Home Affairs is developing a Face Verification Service which matches a person’s photo against images used on one of their evidence of identity documents to help verify their identity,” read the submission. “This could assist in age verification, for example, by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver license to circumvent age verification controls.”

Shortly after the proposal was put forward, age verification campaigners Collective Shout posted a message on its website headlined “we have been heard”.

“Collective Shout recently submitted a briefing paper on the issue to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications making the case for effective online age verification measures to protect children from exposure to online pornography. […]

“Age Verification (AV) places responsibility on the suppliers of pornography to verify the age of consumers using their sites. AV occurs through utilizing a third-party trusted verification process that accesses existing robust data sources (credit card, driver’s license, etc.). AV companies do not hold the data—they request verification from existing sources to ascertain the age of the person requesting to be verified. P*rn sites do not have access to the data.”

Currently, Document and Face Verification Services are primarily used to prevent identity crime in Australia.

Justin Warren, chief analyst at tech consultancy firm PivotNine, told 10 daily, “It’s a stupid idea. You’re trying to pit government technology against the collective sex drive of every teenager in Australia? Good luck. They canned it in the United Kingdom because it would never work.”

Earlier this month, the UK government dropped a long-delayed age verification reform that would similarly require users to verify their identity before watching porn, through submitting ‘traditional’ IDs or buying a pass from a physical shop.

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), confirmed in a statement: “The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography.”

Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman told SEXTECHGUIDE: “Whilst this might seem like a victory for privacy, security and common sense, the implied threat that the mechanics of age verification could be introduced to social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit, via the proposed Online Harms Bill, with the same risks of intimate personal data theft, sale and publication as before, is frankly chilling,”

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