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

The UK's communications regulator has laid out guidance on how online services might perform age checks as part of the Online Safety Act. The range of proposals from Ofcom are likely to send privacy activists running for the hills. These include credit card checks, facial age estimation, and photo ID matching. The checks are …

  1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

    F*ck the tories.... that is all.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      You honestly believe that this has anything to do with a particular party and not the Government in general ?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        The other Tories will solve it by requiring ID cards

        SNP will allow a simple question "Are you over 18?" "Yes/No/Fuck the English"

        Plaid Cymru will allow access to porn as long as the sheep is over 18

        Sinn Féin will allow access only if you upload a photo of yourself wearing a black balaclava and can be bothered finding the "é" key

        1. CountCadaver Silver badge

          More like the SNP would just ban it under their "equally safe" policy which describes pornography as "commercial sexual exploitation" "where those who take part are harmed and harm other women by their participation"

          Same worldview as ofcom...i.e. something must be done

    2. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Labour supported Sarah Champions attempt to tack on restrictions on vpns to this stupid bill

      The establishment tread think tanks and career civil servants) appears to believe the world of San.Angeles as envisioned in demolition man has far too many freedoms (in their eyes "ways for the proles to mess up their neat, tidy and orderly system") and tbus why give anyone any freedom at all. All while the right wing talk about freedom while demanding book bans, abortion bans, introducing ever more restrictions on right to protest, more vague laws to make people unsure where the line of legality is

      We are in a world made up of THE worst of 1984, V for Vendetta, Atlas Shrugged and many other dystopian worlds - won't surprise me soon to see "fingermen" out on the streets demanding to know why people are out after curfew or just arresting anyone defying it or at a minimum demanding "papers", kids taught govt propaganda buzzwords "now repeat after me children "ENGLAND PREVAILS "and to make sure no "improper information " gets loose, the unsafe "internet" will be replaced by the"wholesome, family friendly and govt vetted "BritNet" (aka a more totalitarian version of China's net)

      Stop the world I want to get off

      1. Steve Crook

        Economics has broken the model for the west. Many were looking at the passivation of the Chinese through growth (Brave New World style) and thinking they could do with that. Then there was 2008 and all those dreams ended...

        But they're not giving up trying.

        This is yet another attempt to will working technology into existence by demanding it should exist. A bit like the alchemy of the ancients...

        1. CountCadaver Silver badge

          Personally if I had kids I'd rather than they were looking at porn than - injecting / snorting drugs, committing robberies/assaults, shooting up their school and their peers.

          Put it this way the chances of death from teen pregnancy are exponentially less than being shot and with contraception and advice on how to use it being applied, lower still....

          This obsession with some romanticised "innocence" that lasts until someone is 18 (or in some people's eyes till 21+) has led us into this deranged rabbit hole of stupidity.

          If it wasn't for the "think of the children" you could easily solve the lack of sperm donors in this world by paying teen boys to do what they do anyway, except into sample containers rather than socks etc (i'm sure legions of mothers would be glad not to find socks that could do double duty as hammers for one.....), boost entrepreneurship, keep them out of trouble (why join a gang and rob someone when its more lucrative to well....stay home....)

          (before anyone reports me, my tongue is firmly in cheek and I am being in NO way serious in anyway shape or form, just indulging in what would have passed up till relatively recently as humour......its sad i have to make that clear...)

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            All this will do is make the IT savvy kids the most popular ones in school. The ones who have their parents Age Verification password, know how to use a VPN etc. They then just share it around possibly for a small fee. A few years ago I was on the way to the post office just after kicking out time at the local Schools. On the bus ride there I was joined at the back of the upper deck by several spotty teenage youth in uniform. One of them had an impressively high resolution image of one lady and four men engaged in what I now understand is a position referred to as 'airtight'. His phone was filled with such images and films and as this was the latest addition he was bluetoothing or wifi sharing it to his mates sitting around him.

            Just realised I would have been the most popular (and richest) kid in my school…….and not Antony who looked like he might be 18 and so his local newsagents sold him some of Richard Desmond’s finest publications (and I’m not talking about the Daily Express).

      2. pantsu
        Big Brother

        "Stop the world I want to get off" - We'll have none of that, sonny-jim, until you show us some ID.

  2. Julian 8 Silver badge

    bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

    Open Banking - if you knew the tech that a lot of banks have, you would not go down this route. I am staggered that there are not more bank breaches. Any look at how many outages there are these days.

    MNO - nope, phones I know fhat under 18s have do not have this as parents have bought and do not bother with it

    Photo ID - a lot do not have this yet as seen by the drive to get photo ID for up coming elections, and some won't care about that and not bother at all

    Credit Cards - I know a number of people who have never had, or have for one reason or another, got rid of credit cards Also not hard for a kid to get a CC and get the number quickly

    Digital Wallets - seeing how often crypto ones are cracked - no thanks

    Face ID - sure there is a disability issue here with some illnesses, and how would Tom Cruise or Michael J Fox use this ?

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

      Regarding MNO, every MNO I've had (Vodafone, T Mobile and Three) have required me to verify I am an adult (usually by allowing them to "reserve" a payment on my credit card, which they do not then complete) to access any adult content. Not that I view porn on my phone, but they bundled a whole load of sites I do access under the adult content banner.

      1. Cruachan

        Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

        It was a LONG time ago, back in the days of WAP when very few sites were mobile optimised and there were no apps, but I had to get the adult block lifted on my phone so I could check football scores on a Saturday afternoon, because the bookies websites were some of the first to go mobile. There was no categorisation of "adult" sites, just an on/off block on what the MNO had decided to filter.

    2. PB90210

      Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

      Requirement for Photo ID for elections already exists

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-64877005

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

        Requirement for Photo ID for elections already exists

        Nit pick: Requirement for Photo ID for voting in elections in person already exists. No requirement for photo id exists for postal votes, which is what I've got.

      2. Julian 8 Silver badge

        Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

        Indeed for those that do not have other options (Driving license, passport), but you can guarantee that some of those will look at this type of photo ID and determine if it only means they can vote in an election, then they will not bother - which is the point I was making.

        After all, we are not like Australia where you can get fined, and most the elections the turn out is not great

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

      So your Bank is going to know what information you want to access.

      Given that programmable Britcoin is on the cards, there is totally nothing that could go wrong with this.

    4. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Flame

      Re:Photo ID - DVLA

      Someone I know who is 29 has just received a new Photo Driving licence, due to an address change.

      The photo used by the DVLA for renewals during Covid was that on the persons passport (if they had one). This means it could be 10 years out of date.

      However, his new driving licence did not have the previous licence photo, nor the current passport photo (the same one, 4 years old). It has a previous passport photo, from when he was 14!!! (It's never been used on a licence.)

      Where the hell have they grabbed that from!

      Another problem with the DVLA. A friend has to renew a licence after an isolated medical incident. They rang up a couple of weeks ago to check the status to find that it has been awaiting reading for six weeks. She has been ringing every couple of days since, but 8 weeks on since receipt, the application has still not been looked at. She has had to be travelling by trains and taxis for the 6 months of the licence suspension, costing nearly as much as she earns (I've even done the 100 mile round trip to take her for an 08:00 start about a dozen times when the trains have been cancelled.) The DVLA are either completely undermanned, or incompetent!

      1. gryphon

        Re: Re:Photo ID - DVLA

        Surely both.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Re:Photo ID - DVLA

        They’ve taken the passport photo for the driving licence for a while now, that wasn’t a Covid thing. My driving licence expires about 2 months before my passport, so I am replacing a 20 year-old photo with a 10 year old one.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Re:Photo ID - DVLA

          That's another oddity. I thought that if you had to wear glasses to drive, your photo license must show you wearing glasses - to demonstrate to plod that the holder must be wearing glasses to be driving. However, the passport photo requires you to be not wearing glasses. So how do that match up with them using my glasses-less passport photo for my glasses-requred driving licence?

          1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
            Stop

            Re: Re:Photo ID - DVLA

            No, on the plastic licence card there's a long set of codes of which 01 means that the driver needs glasses or some other eyesight correction, 02 is hearing aids and then there are many, many other codes for multiferous things.

    5. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: bloody clueless, and think of Tom Cruise / Michael J Fox

      Just remembered that AOL in the UK always used to show up as a US geolocated IP address. If that’s still true then AOL might actually be useful today, which is not something I thought I’d ever say.

  3. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
    Holmes

    ORLY?

    >> Ofcom also states that sites must not provide information or links to Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers.

    Wow. Just wow. Google et. al. are going to remove links from a search for VPNs if the user is under the age of 18? Facebook and X likewise? Youtube are going to remove ads for VPNs from all the hosted videos that are sponsored by VPN providers? Hmmm does the existense of OpenVPN/Wireguard in Linux package managers/App stores constitute an advert?

    Perhaps the Govt. will use that refusal/impracticality/unreasonableness to remove such material as an excuse to make it illegal to use a VPN for UK citizens.... you read it here first.

    Sigh. When will we get a government that refuses to tilt at windmills?

    1. abend0c4

      Re: ORLY?

      When will we get a government that refuses to tilt at windmills?

      When we vote for one.

      However, the idea that politics is the "art of the possible" appears to have fallen out of electoral favour.

      1. Steve Crook

        Re: ORLY?

        Ever watched a film where a character says something like:

        "we have to do X, we've got 24h to solve this, let's get it done"? And it is!

        The problem is that this fantasy has become what many think of as reality despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

        Perhap Jame Burk's "Connections" should be compulsory viewing?

    2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: ORLY?

      Seems fairly obvious that 'sites' in this context refers to 'adult-only sites', i.e. these sites mustn't offer advice on how to circumvent the age-check measures.

      1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

        Re: ORLY?

        >>Seems fairly obvious that 'sites' in this context refers to 'adult-only sites', i.e. these sites mustn't offer advice on how to circumvent the age-check measures.

        That's probably the stated intent. I wonder how they will code that into law?

        What happens when other sites (Google, FB, ChatGPT, et. al. as mentioned) offer ways around age blocks?

        Then we are firmly back in the territory of banning VPNs becasue of hte Ch1ldr3n!!1!!1!!!!111!!

        Laws made to generate votes are generally a bad idea and this is no excpetion.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: ORLY?

          "What happens when other sites (Google, FB, ChatGPT, et. al. as mentioned) offer ways around age blocks?"

          I don't know, let's see:

          PornTube homepage: "Hey, we need to check your age before we let you in, but you may be interested in this shiny VPN" ==> illegal

          VPN provider homepage/Google ad: "Install this and say goodbye to age checks on YouSmut" ==> legal

          It's a moot point anyway, porn sites won't even bother promoting bypass solutions when a simple Google search will give you all you need in a few clicks.

          "Laws made to generate votes are generally a bad idea and this is no excpetion."

          No sane person on this forum is doubting this.

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: ORLY?

            It's a moot point anyway, porn sites won't even bother promoting bypass solutions when a simple Google search will give you all you need in a few clicks.

            And I'm sure the red-top newspapers will be very, very happy to receive the uptick in advertising revenues from the VPN providers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ORLY?

      I'm erring towards believing banning the internet wouldn't be a terrible idea given some of the utter bullshit about street lights, 5G, sovrinty, pandemics, vaccines, climate change etc. ad-nauseum which some people find, swallow and regurgitate.

      If an internet ban doesn't happen can we at least have a critical thinking test before access is allowed?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: ORLY?

        Yes, we never had widespread stupidity before the Internet.

        Oh, wait.

  4. devin3782
    Big Brother

    Ah yes the societal memory of 90 days so wait for an amount of time after that, then change it slightly and republish, for gods sake stop this nonsense.

    Storing more data about kids on-line isn't going to make them safer on-line, it'll make them less safe and more easily identifiable, which is the opposite of what we should be doing. To make children safer online make strong encryption mandatory, ensure no data is stored about anyone and most importantly accompany them when they're browsing the internet.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      All these events that legislation is hiding, normally just prove there are idiots out there in the world.

      When my daughter was a kid and watching films with swearing and light sexy activities I told her that this was only teaching her that adults were so often idiots. I'm happy about this now because she went to universities and earned her Masters degree with everyone in the university cheering her award! She's independent now, I'm just a dad but all her friends worship her opinions these days and she's doing excellent work with her employer so happy about her sensible and helpful calm interactions with a whole range of customers.

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        Swearing is the choice of those with a limited vocabulary. Unfortunately it seems that these are becoming a growing majority of the population.

        I only swear under two circumstances:

        When I am seriously struggling to get my body through a very tight section of cave

        When I scammer rings me up, and I have to use words they might understand

        1. Paul Smith

          Swearing is the choice of those with a limited vocabulary.

          If you only know one swear word, then your vocabulary is clearly limited.

          The true definition of a polylinguist is someone who can swear fluently in multiple languages.

          1. Evil Scot

            Re: Swearing is the choice of those with a limited vocabulary.

            Bampot!!!!

            Merd.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Oh look, this ridiculous trope again.

          No, one's choice to use colorful language is in no way indicative of one's vocabulary. That nonsense has been thoroughly debunked.

          Now, feck off, ye coont.

          1. NewModelArmy

            If you want to have a real laugh, then look at the interview of the Miss USA candidate answering a question.

            https://www.thepoke.com/2023/12/05/still-the-greatest-answer-of-all-time-on-tv/

            There is no swearing, but it does support your theory, in some way....

        3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Swearing is a country specific interpretation, when I get scammer calls I don't swear at them, I just play them a little Australian music after telling them they need to focus. LOL so scam calls result in me laughing!

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Swearing is a country specific interpretation

            <québécois>Tabarnak!</québécois>

            Utterly weird to my English ears.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              québécois is basically swearing with occasional French words inserted

              1. MiguelC Silver badge

                Some catholic expressions are swear words in Québéquois, one might think that church's history in the country might have something to do with it

        4. Kane
          Boffin

          "Swearing is the choice of those with a limited vocabulary."

          Get Tae Fook!

        5. Sub 20 Pilot

          I disagree with you, I speak 4 languages but sometimes swearing is the only thing that works.

          You can't say that it is bad while selecting an use case for yourself that justifies it. That is hypocricy.

    2. BobTheIntern

      Does anyone really believe this has anything to do with the "safety of the children" rather than just being another excuse to expand the surveillance state?

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "facial age estimation"

    Oh, the paragon of truthfulness. Yes, I am eagerly waiting for the AI that can identify the age of a person by only analyzing a portrait. I'm sure all the Asians will be either miffed or delighted (following if they're actually under 30 or over 40) at such a "proof" of age. I personally know a woman of Chinese ancestry who is going to celebrate her 40th birthday soon. Going by her face, I would swear she's still in her 20s.

    So yeah, I'm really interested in seeing a program that can accurately judge a person's age by only their picture.

    I won't be holding my breath, though.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "facial age estimation"

      When I read about the face biometrics I assumed it was looking at the face while they view the pr0n to judge how innocent they are by the expression...

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: "facial age estimation"

        This is funny and horrific ... hat tip

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: "facial age estimation"

      Hopefully someone is already working on a device driver that mimics a webcam, but just plays a video of the current Home Secretary on a loop. That should solve the problem for your youthful-looking friend.

      1. Adrian 4

        Re: "facial age estimation"

        The bandwidth necessary to keep the video up to date with 'current' will easily defeat this scheme.

      2. JavaJester
        Go

        Re: "facial age estimation"

        OBS Studio has virtual webcam that does exactly that.

    3. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: "facial age estimation"

      They will keep thinking that adding silicon can make phrenology work this time.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
        Joke

        Re: "facial age estimation"

        Retro-phrenology, when practised upon politicians, does however stand a chance of working.

        1. Evil Scot
          Thumb Up

          Re: "facial age estimation"

          Upvote for the Pratchett reference.

    4. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "facial age estimation"

      I have held many positions within youth organisations. I can assure you that it is incredibly difficult to accurately guess the age of some people. I was commonly judged at 26 when I was in my 40's.

      When the youngsters are wearing full makeup they could be 14 or 40!

      I was National Deputy President of one youth and young adult organisation in the UK. We have both under and over 18's provide photo ID as part of getting their photo membership card to the organisation each year. With guardian checks for the under 18's.

      For events where alcohol is served, everyone has to show this photo card (to get a wrist band showing red - under age - or green - to allow purchase of alcohol) and 17 & 18 year olds must be signed in by an over 21 member who agrees to act "in loco parentis" (to try and cut down on other people buying them alcohol).

      If a human can't do it, can we really expect a computer to be able to do it?

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: "facial age estimation"

        But a bushy beard must be over 18 right?

        Now let me open a false beard shop, all sexes catered for...

        1. OhForF' Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: "facial age estimation"

          You expect the age checks to be as effective as the enforcement of the no women at stonings rule in the Life of Brian?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aren't scammers going to abuse this? If people get use to showing their credit card or data that could easily be used to blackmail them it wont take long for a few sites to pop up that are just a front to harvest personal data.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Are you attempting to apply the sort of logical thought and reasoning expected of a 5year old to a government policy?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This sort of thing has already happened.

      Operation Ore was a UK Police operation launched on the basis of evidence from a US police action. Put simply, the US police had busted a website which gave access to child pornography along with lots of other completely legal if unusual porn. The info handed over was a list of the credit card numbers that had been billed for child porn access by the operators of the website. All well and good, but the thing was this: the operators of the website were greedy criminals who had realised that if someone gets a bill for access to a porn site on their credit card, they are unlikely to dispute it especially after a good look at the actual website.

      Therefore they billed customers of the more normal sections of their site for access to the illegal section, as well as buying in criminally-obtained credit card numbers and billing those as well. One accused suspect was claimed to have paid the website from a site near Lake Tahoe at the exact same time he was having dinner in a restaurant in Yorkshire 5000 miles away. That and other prosecutions fell through, but an estimated 33 other men committed suicide because of the accusations. I grant you that some may well have been genuine users of child porn, but most weren't.

      This sort of thing is likely to repeat over and over and over again if credit cards are used as evidence of adulthood. The police will rightly continue to chase the money where child porn is concerned, since this hurts the producers of such filth more effectively than almost anything else, but if you act to put credit card details into the hands of criminals, then criminal acts will occur.

      Quite honestly another approach to the problem of child porn could be taken: free no questions asked prescription of testosterone blockers to any adult male who wants them. There must be quite a few people out there who have never offended, yet whose sexual preferences are illegal. Giving them a way to switch off such thoughts would be humane and would reduce the market for such material.

  7. Dr Dan Holdsworth
    FAIL

    How to teach people the wrong thing

    So, a free product is now to be ring-fenced with all manner of restrictions but also the government has to leave VPNs completely untouched.

    It therefore will take one or two tech-savvy teens about five minutes to work out that a free Chinese VPN that terminates in somewhere not-UK is a completely effective way around this block. Granted such a thing is a data-stealing nightmare that likely also tries to infect everything it touches with viruses, but the average teen male won't see or care about that at all.

    What IS being taught to young, impressionable teens is a very simple message: The Government is really thick. Like, quite incredibly, knuckle-draggingly stupid and all that matters here is not being caught. So, if you combine this with drugs policy then the message is quite simple and straightforwards:

    Do whatever you like as long as you don't get caught.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: How to teach people the wrong thing

      Well if they learn that the government is thick, perhaps they will manage to vote more intelligently than their seniors.

      I'm not going to be holding my breath, mind.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How to teach people the wrong thing

        I fear they won't.

        I was literally walking behind some air-head who was talking about voting for someone in a local election "because they live on a nice sounding road".

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: How to teach people the wrong thing

      The teens typically don't pay taxes, so they don't understand how much of a waste of their parents money this whole hokey cokey is.

      Like they could get a new Playstation every few months if these corrupt idiots weren't inventing ways to pay even more money to connected consultancies implementing those idiotic measures.

    3. Julian 8 Silver badge

      Re: How to teach people the wrong thing

      On our kit here, we are all pleb users. There is an admin account and I will install software as needed.

      Going back a few years, the little shite here found a vpn that would install and run via his %appdata% account.

      I must check, where does Opera's inbuilt VPN have its endpoints ?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: How to teach people the wrong thing

        Things like Zoom bypass all the local computer's security to run in %USERDIR% specifically so the user isn't confronted by the inconvenience of having to actually get the Admin user to allow them to install the software. So it will be a matter of milliseconds for VPNs to do the same by default.

  8. Lazlo Woodbine

    Yeah, I'm more than willing to hand my credit card number to th kind of sharks who operate many of the XXX sites, same with a sna of my driving license.

  9. ChipsforBreakfast

    Finally... A real use for DALL-E

    "Facial age estimation"....

    I give it lesss than a week.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Finally... A real use for DALL-E

      Faceapp has an age-changing feature and has been around for years.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Finally... A real use for DALL-E

        A cheap Logitech webcam I won as a prize in some contest years ago came with all sorts of filters. There was probably an age-changing one, and if not, I bet one of the others would confuse any idiotic age-guessing software.

        This is a classic case of being on the wrong side of the asymmetry. As the article says, it doesn't take a genius to see why these proposals are flawed; it does, apparently, take an ounce of common sense, which is clearly in short supply at Ofcom.

  10. xyz Silver badge

    NSFW...

    I just typed ****ed into Google and got an eyeful.

    No credit card or facial (ooer missus) required and the results would have stiffened the resolve of any teenager.

    I think the powers that be don't understand that you dont have to go near a pr0n site to view pr0n.

    1. Blazde Silver badge

      Re: NSFW...

      The powers that be are sold on the idea that AI can magically solve all this. Type NSFW into Google.co.uk in a few years and it'll be endless 'Age restricted' results with just a few of the weirder, probably ruder results not restricted because AI can't magically solve this. And a bunch of innocent searches will also lead to endless 'Age restricted' results too because... AI can't magically solve this. Google (& Microsoft) won't care because now you need an account with more personal data attached to use their searches, and they already blew the serious search competition away so you have nowhere else to go.

      On Facebook & Instagram random innocent posts are already mysteriously marked 'sensitive content' on the regular (because AI can't magically solve this)

      1. Adrian 4

        Re: NSFW...

        "The powers that be are sold on the idea that AI can magically solve all this."

        And this is the danger of the waves of AI-like systems. Stupid politicians believing it can magically solve problems when all it can do is magically create new ones.

        What we need is magical AI politicians, carefully safeguarded by giving them neither power nor platforms.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Re: NSFW...

          > Stupid politicians believing it can magically solve problems when all it can do is magically create new ones.

          I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The less that a politician actually understands information technology, the more likely they are to take for granted (or expect us to believe) that it's a pancea which can magically solve whatever problem they've been unable to deal with by other means.

          Remember a few years back when the Tories were in a bind with the issue of the Northern Ireland border because they hadn't given a toss about- let alone planned for- the consequences of Brexit on NI before they rushed into it?

          And remember when, flailing about for a solution, they proposed that a frictionless border could be magically implemented by purely technical means? The same proposal that the type of people who actually understood the type of technology which it would require were pointing out was pie-in-the-sky fantasist drivel which was essentially impossible with present-day technology and would take decades to develop?

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Ah, politicians

            They operate on the good old "something must be done" principle (this is something, so it must be done).

            Granted, since the past three decades it appears to me that, globally speaking, politicians everywhere are getting more and more shallow and stupid (the shitshow we've got going in France is appalling), if not outright callous and thieving, but the real problem, IMO, is that they all feel that they must appear to be achieving, and they will grasp at anything to do so.

            They haven't understood that their job is not to achieve, it is to manage. Achieving is done by the voters, they have a job (hopefully, at least), and jobs are what achieve things.

            Politicians (and administrative busybodies in general) are simply there to make sure the rules keep everyone globally going in the same direction. And maybe, from time to time, inaugurate a monument.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NSFW...

        Safety is the excuse not the reason for this.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. JavaJester
    Stop

    Fun & Games

    When I was a teenager we would have had fun trying to find the loopholes around it. The more absurd the loophole the better. Think of things like using phone numbers advertised by stuffy businesses like banks or a spoofed location in Antarctica.

    This will do little to keep shut from children, but will destroy what little privacy that remains online.

  12. Free treacle

    Information control

    This is just the first stage. It's relatively easy to pass laws restricting access to smut, after all who would speak out in its favour? Then we move to smut-adjacent material, links on Twitter or access from reddit. Maybe booze or gambling will follow. Then maybe objectionable news sites. We need to know about every online service you're accessing to PROTECT THE CHILDREN.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: Information control

      >>We need to know about every online service you're accessing to PROTECT THE CHILDREN.

      And, if you oppose this monitoring, you are obviously in active favour of Child Abuse!!1!1!!!!!!!!1111

      Burn the witch! Burn the witch! he has the devil in him!!!1111111111!!!!

  13. WonkoTheSane
    Trollface

    The answer is obvious

    We need to declare Mumsnet a terrorist organisation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The answer is obvious

      The fact the operator of that site justifies the witch-hunts that are started there as "free speech" speaks volumes....

      Sort of in the same way Ron de Santos describes free speech....

  14. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Euphemism

    Photo ID matching, where an image of the user is compared to an uploaded document used as proof of age to verify that they are the same person.

    That is just a nicer name for measuring skulls and people still think this joke of a government is not far right.

  15. heyrick Silver badge

    Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

    1986.

    Want porn? Fine. Creep over to the senior block in the dead of night, the cubicle next to Drake's study. Lift the cistern. Retrieve the plastic bag. Unwrap some tame British "porn" (Playboy etc) and some decidedly less tame European imports. DO. NOT. GET. CAUGHT.

    What was more surprising to the 11 year old us wasn't "oh boobies" but more the eye opening "do people really pee on each other?" and "what is she...Argh! No! Ewwwww!".

    Seriously, guys. Children looking at porn at an inappropriate age is pretty much a right of passage. Maybe if there wasn't such a ridiculous broohaha about it, we could all try to have a serious discussion regarding sex, sexuality, gender, and respect. I won't hold my breath...

    1. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

      "Children looking at porn at an inappropriate age is pretty much a right of passage"

      I suspect you meant "rite of passage", but it actually still works the way you wrote it!!

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

        The funny thing is... each and every one of us is the product of a long line of ancestors each and every one of whom has evinced at least once a serious interest in sex. It's almost as if there were some connection.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

        I think "right of passage" is part of consent.

    2. Cruachan

      Re: Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

      It was one of the fondest memories of my childhood, game of football stopped as someone went to retrieve the ball and found something else had been left in the bushes. Jazz mag stopped play.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuck off you moronic cockwombles

      It's not about "pawn", it's about control and identity. It won't be confined to "pawn" for long.

  16. Ball boy Silver badge

    Umm...

    "The rules apply to services with links to the UK – where the UK is a target market, or the service has a "significant number" of UK users"

    Anyone know, offhand, what percentage of p0rn sites actually *target* the UK or otherwise meet this 'significant number of users' malarkey? Furthermore, anyone care to guess how many of those that are registered outside UK jurisdiction will be willing to expose (see what I did there?) this kind of data about their user base to a curious UK government official?

    Surely the market for p0rn is pretty global so I'd be surprised if any of the top 10 sites actually meet the definition - and that's before anyone in gubberment figures out that content unsuitable for a minor can be hosted on sites that are waaaay outside the definition of 'p0rn': my child (16) told me they'd seen a video on Tiktok of someone getting run over by a bus (as in properly ending up under the wheels). Not p0rn - but hardly bed-time viewing for anyone.

    I'm afraid I can't offer a workable solution to this problem but I can easily see some muppet in Whitehall deciding that the only practical solution is to force age verification for, well, any use of the Internet.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Umm...

      It's the sites that have categories like:

      Tea bagging

      Cumpets

      Shepherd's cream pie

      Fish and chaps

      Double-decked

      British Pounding

      Royal Family

      Union Jack off

      Sunday split roast

      Black pudding

      Big Bens

      Eton mess

      and so on...

    2. stewwy

      Re: Umm...

      Well one site that I might have visited has a tick box for 'British' so I assume that if I don't tick the box for 'British models' It won't affect me ;-)

  17. jmch Silver badge

    Just stop being so anal about this!!

    Identity management is not trivial, and whatever mechanisms we have for it are not perfect. That's as true online as in real life - kids have always found ways to get their hands on fake ID, cigarettes, alcohol and porn, and will continue to do so because whatever tricks work offline will continue to do so online, even if it is simply a case of paying (or even asking nicely) an adult to get it for you.

    It seems to me that the requirements of the idealists are that

    - 100% of adults will be able to access the services online they want without any loss of privacy

    - 0% of minors will be able to access online services that are limited to adults

    Even one of those requirements is hopelessly optimistic, let alone both of them together. So just chill and accept that the ideal is unreachable, and just go with "good enough".

    And incidentally, teenagers having access to porn is only a problem for a bunch of prudes. It wasn't that long ago that it was normal for teenagers to marry, have sex and have kids (not necessarily in that order). If sex wasn't such a taboo for so many adults, and we actually helped teens to explore sex in a safe and healthy way, teens would be having much healthier relationships and sex lives (and, dare I say it, watching less porn and having less unwanted pregnancies)

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: Just stop being so anal about this!!

      >>It seems to me that the requirements of the idealists are that

      >>- 100% of adults will be able to access the services online they want without any loss of privacy

      >>- 0% of minors will be able to access online services that are limited to adults

      100% of adults will be able to access content deemed suitable for adults

      0% of minors will be able to access content not deemed appropriate for minors or adults.

      The question is.. who does the deeming? You? Me? The civil service? the 1922 committee? Mumsnet? BritainFirst? AnarchyUK? Tooting Liberation Front? Liberation front of Tooting? The illuminati? The Justified Ancients of MuMu? the ELF?

      We are at the top of (some would argue already sliding down) a very slippery slope with an ever increasing gradient.

      Get your tokens from the ballot box & hold on tight boys and girls; let me hear you scream to go faster!

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Just stop being so anal about this!!

        "The question is.. who does the deeming? You? Me? The civil service? the 1922 committee? Mumsnet? BritainFirst? AnarchyUK? Tooting Liberation Front? Liberation front of Tooting? The illuminati? The Justified Ancients of MuMu? the ELF?"

        Definitely the Justified Ancients of MuMu!

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Just stop being so anal about this!!

      Yes, my great-grandmother only waited until she was 21 to get married because there was a war on, otherwise yes, she'd have got married at 19.

      It took my grandmother until she was 28 because there was another war on, and she was busy ####### and #### ## behind ##### #### ### France #### listening post ### #######.

  18. GeorgeOfBells

    We've already seen with lockdowns that when it comes to public "safety" each political party tries to outdo the other with how though they are.

    The current political party in power will go next year, but don't think the next lot will be more liberal on these issues. Also the "government" includes jobs-for-life civil servants who won't be going anywhere.

    It's an unworkable solution, one that has failed before, but no one is willing to admit it.

    1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge
      Unhappy

      Jobs for Life for civil servants? I should coco -they go everytime the Gov wants to 'save money'

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong problem targeted

    If child safety is the goal, it is wrong to start with age verification per web-service. It is waste of time and resources long term.

    The primary danger comes from a child being able to communicate with anyone. For this even an SMS, or phone call would suffice. Cyber-security example: phishing messages come through multiple channels. Porn is a subset of the issue.

    Child-adapted iOS or Android versions are necessary. In such platforms, a parent will have to white-list specific groups, friends, phone numbers, etc. The control should be done from the parent's phone. This would be an important inter-platform project.

    1. The Basis of everything is...

      Re: Wrong problem targeted

      But Google have decided that childhood ends at 13 and your kids can opt out of all controls and restrictions at that point. So your choice becomes trust your kids or get them a dumb phone. Except that schools already mandate they must use certain apps so that's not really an option.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Wrong problem targeted

        The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US decided that children are under 13s.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Wrong problem targeted

      That will be too much hassle, the parents will just buy an ordinary phone.

      a) to use this phone you have to pay X and do A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H and I

      b) to use this phone you have to pay X

      Which option do you think 99% of the population will go for?

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Wrong problem targeted

        Option a)

        Because option b) would not be cool and children must be seen to be cool.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > parents will just buy an ordinary phone

        Then forget about such parents and *their* children. Because they are NOT worried about their own children's' safety. The proposal for OS-level control empower parents, who care. Alternatively make it illegal to possess an adult device by minors, which would reduce juvenile delinquency and violence rampant in some countries. Confiscation by the police being the enforcement.

        After that the politicians should calm down, because nanny states tend to turn into dictatorships. Porn sites (or any sites) have no business to know *any* personal information about their users. While OS gatekeepers have all the interest to make their ecosystems safe, at least by regulatory means.

        Child-OS devices should have app-installation disabled, or visiting non-whitelisted web-sites, both requiring parental approval. Such white-listing can be done both by the device makers and the parents themselves through their adult-verified devices or special apps on old devices. Additional side-effect is the reduction of cyber-security incidents, as children are more likely to click randomly.

        A new device setup must require age verification for adults. This step is unavoidable, but rare, as people do not change devices often.

        > too much hassle

        Age verification and sharing PII all-over is even more of a hassle.

  20. DS999 Silver badge

    How is the "facial estimation" AI trained, I wonder?

    Presumably with lots and lots of photos of people with their real age given, so that the AI "learns" what someone who is 15, someone who is 47, someone who is 82 etc. looks.

    Now imagine you're 14 and you want to fool that AI. I'm willing to bet any amount of money that if you attached a fake beard with streaks of gray on your chin that the AI would pass you, because it has been trained that beards with streaks of gray indicate various ages from the 30s to 60s but definitely no one who is under 18.

    And I'm further willing to bet it is dumb enough that this would still work if you are a 14 year old girl. Because "AI" is stupid, it only knows what it has been trained on. Unless it is trained on an adversarial dataset, it will be as easy to fool as a toddler.

    1. Antony Shepherd

      Re: How is the "facial estimation" AI trained, I wonder?

      Maybe there'll be a market for cheap "Jacob Rees-Mogg" masks to evade the facial estimation AI?

    2. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: How is the "facial estimation" AI trained, I wonder?

      teenage girls will resort to the well worn tactic of make up, amazing with practice how many years you can plus or minus, adding in or removing various accessories i.e. glasses popular with more "mature" relatives, hairstyles way past fashionable etc etc and if teens have anything its time on their hands and will expend serious effort, more so if they are teens with adhd and hyperfocus (as one of the things that ignites hyperfocus is a challenge and competition "bet you cant get access to abcdef site" "you're on")

  21. Tron Silver badge

    Dumb and dumber.

    This is what happens when the most ignorant, hypocritical, paranoid, inadequate and corrupt people in your country run it.

    Why should we be concerned by Putin and the CCP, when having the Tories in power has been like losing a war, and they are turning the internet into a CCP-style surveillance network.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Dumb and dumber.

      Forgotten who wanted national ID cards that would monitor everything?

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    From

    the BBC take on this story

    14 million people access pr0n from the UK

    Ok 14 million.... so lets store age verifying data about them (and what sites they end up at)

    Is that store going to be number 1 target for hackers and phishers or what?

    "Ah yes cheif constable, thats a very fair point you make , but since you have a liking for 'french school girls in leather' I'm going to have to ask you to resign"

    or

    "Found you on the pr0n data base into girl on girl stuff... I'm going to out you to your parents/friends as gay unless you pay us 0.1 bit coins......"

    Its just a nightmare waiting to happen.... and little johnny still signed up for goatpr0n using his dad's credit card........

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: From

      >french school girls in leather'

      Such unpatriotic behavior must be punished. Under Brexit you can only look at British school girls in leather, except for Northern Ireland where the Leather must still be in line with Eu regulations

  23. Neoc

    Let's see:

    1) Open banking, where a bank confirms a user is over 18 without sharing any other personal information.

    Yes please, I want a MitM attack to be able to sniff out what bank I belong to and my credentials. Yummy,

    2) Mobile network operator (MNO) age check, where the responsibility is shunted onto an MNO content restriction filter that can only be removed if the device user can prove to the MNO that they are over 18.

    Sounds great. So, apart from the hassle to the MNO, the UK Gov *does* remember that not everyone uses only a mobile device to access the 'net, right?

    3) Photo ID matching, where an image of the user is compared to an uploaded document used as proof of age to verify that they are the same person.

    And who does the matching? And what if you're on a PC that doesn't have a webcam? Can the kiddies simply hold a photo of Mom/Dad in front of whatever camera is being used?

    4) Credit card checks, where a credit card account is checked for validity – in the UK, credit card holders must be over 18.

    Yeah! That's what I want! My credit card details spread around the internet to any website that deems that the require it for age checking. How long before a plethora of dodgy sites turn up saying their contents require age confirmation, fork over your details thanks?

    5) Digital identity wallets and, our favorite, facial age estimation, where the features of a user's face are analyzed to estimate the user's age.

    I don't have a digital wallet, and facial recognition again requires you to have a camera.

    Really. I swear it seems like there's a requirement for common sense to be surgically removed before you're allowed to run for office.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      It's almost as if no-one's actually thought about what it is that they (and all the stakeholders) want and need.

      - A site requires that I be over a certain age to use it

      - I have no desire to advertise my patronage of said site

      - I certainly don't want to tell the government what I'm up to

      but... the government already knows how old I am, via NI number, DVLA, Passport agency. So how about a mechanism whereby I can request a token from the government, different every time I request one, that says I'm over 18? I relay that to the site, and they can perform an internal check on the token to judge its validity (don't as me how, I'm not that sort of software engineer - but I'm pretty sure that there are mechanisms to do this). Significantly, they don't have to go to the

      The government doesn't know why I want the token; the site doesn't know who I am but has verified my age, and there is no new and exciting database beyond what already exists - and even if a new database needs to be created (surely everyone has an NI number, right?) and the new token every time - if done properly - has no relationship between previously issued tokens.

      I'm sure I've missed something important...

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        -- I'm sure I've missed something important... --

        First thing missed - how does the government know its you asking for the token (and no its not going to be tokens all the way down)

        Secondly, assuming firstly is solved, the government knows its issued a token. It also knows the site that wants to validate the token. It stores both bits of information and now it knows which sites you've visited.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          No, the government is never asked to verify a token; the token is valid or it isn't and maybe the site uses a timeout and a once-only policy to avoid reuse.

          But yes, there is an issue of the government knowing it's you or not; I don't know how to solve that, but my bank doesn't know either and that seems to work. The tax office issues an ID number on demand but I can't remember the questions they asked to verify.

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    All these proposals fail to account of one vital human characteristic: people lie.

    Every single proposal is built on the requirement that the person being checked does not lie to the checker.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say goodbye to free speech

    This is not about keeping anyone "safe". it is about identity. I guarantee you will see this used to identify people and victimise or persecute, even prosecute people for off message or (global) government critical speech. Not at first, it will creep in over a year or two. We are losing our democracy and free speech.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leisure Suit Larry

    In the days of MSDOS, we had a copy of the above - and many a happy lunchtime was spent with colleagues playing it. However, since it was an adult game to prove that you were old enough to play it, you had to answer some, mostly historical questions first. Bad news, we were Limeys in a pre Google age being asked questions about US presidents and US TV programmes (programs?) there were times we couldn't play it

  28. The AVPA

    The easiest way for porn sites to comply with the new law is by using independent third-party privacy-preserving solutions, audited and certified to international standards. The principles of privacy-by-design and data minimisation underpin the age assurance industry.

    Understandably no one wants to give a porn site their personal data - all members of the Age Verification Providers Association must comply with our code of conduct and are, in any case, tightly regulated by the UK Information Commissioner, and have safely completed over a billion online age checks under their supervision. We do not create any new central databases of personal information except for a record of the date of birth or estimated age of a user. Any personal data used in the age-proofing process is deleted so it is not vulnerable to abuse.

    The best in class facial age estimation solutions reject over 99.5% of under 18s when testing if a user looks over 25. So the vast majority of adults will be able to use an immediately deleted selfie with an independent age assurance provider to access pornography. That’s true across skin tones, and audits of software against international standards check there is no significant bias. Adults just turning 18 will need to use conventional age verification methods until they appear to be over 25 - in effect a “Challenge 25” approach.

    The US federal government is also currently testing facial age estimation and will be confirming within weeks providers’ claims about accuracy and bias through the National Institute for Standards and Technology

    As the enforcement date approaches, Ofcom will be able to provide clearer guidance based on Part 2 of the new ISO 27566 standard for age assurance. Ofcom needs to be crystal clear with the porn publishers as to its interpretation of ”highly effective” or the adult sector will run rings around the regulator. Successful implementation is now in the hands of Ofcom which must make it clear there will be a level playing field with any non-compliant site, large or small, subject to business interruption measures and site blocking the day the rules come into force. Five million porn sites need to be given that message loud and clear.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
      WTF?

      What everyone seems to forget is that porn these days doesn't actually make much money. There are lots of free sites out there so advertising revenue from users who are by the very nature of the product not going want to click on adverts is the only way to go. Porn sites get hosted wherever the hosting is cheapest and law enforcement is least onerous, therefore this means very few are UK-hosted.

      So, if you have a country that's trying to make you jump through all manner of hoops when their citizens try to access your site, what do you do?

      1) Do nothing and hope they don't notice you

      2) If contacted stick an "Are you 18?" banner on your page.

      3) If threatened again with credible legal action simply black hole all UK IP addresses with geo-IP and a firewall; if they want to look they can use a VPN.

      You will note that trying to force credible age checking on the users doesn't occur on the list. That's because this costs money and porn simply doesn't pay enough for this to be worth doing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Porn is non-issue...

      for child protection.

      Much more important is uncontrollable child communication and resource access. That includes malware and phishing sites. Device-level age verification and white-listing of *all* contacts/sites/apps is necessary.

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