Online age verification system could create a ‘honeypot’ of personal data and pornography viewing habits, warn privacy groups | Technology

Following Optus and Medibank data breaches, digital rights groups are urging the federal government to rule out requiring identification documents as part of any online age verification system, warning that it could create a honeypot of personal information and porn viewing habits. .

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant develops an online safety ‘roadmap’, outlining a way to prevent minors from accessing adult content online by ensuring host sites have verified age users.

The commissioner’s report was originally due to be delivered to the government in December, but the deadline has now been extended to March next year. Stakeholders were made aware of the delay in notification last week.

Various age verification options were proposed during the development of the roadmap, including the use of third-party companies, individual sites verifying age using ID documents or cards credit, and internet service providers or mobile phone operators used to verify the age of users. .

Digital rights groups say that almost all age verification approaches will carry some level of privacy and security risk.

“Following the Optus and Medibank breaches, millions of people are now acutely aware of the dangers of collecting and storing large amounts of our personal information,” said Samantha Floreani, program manager at Digital Rights Watch.

“Age verification is a terrible combination of being invasive and risky, while being ineffective for its purported purpose.

“Less privacy-invasive methods are easily circumvented by tech-savvy children, and those more likely to work to restrict access to pornography create massive and disproportionate risks to privacy and digital security. “

There was potential for a new honeypot of identities and porn viewing habits if these systems were continued, Floreani said.

“The consequences of breaching such a system would be devastating,” she said.

Electronic Frontiers Australia chairman Justin Warren said the EFA had long warned of the privacy and security risks of such a policy.

“A government that claims to be interested in evidence-based policy would listen and act on our advice. Failure to do so suggests that the motivations for increased surveillance and control are ideological,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Albanian government “supports preventing Australian children from viewing pornography online”, but said questions about the roadmap were best directed at the electronic security commissioner.

“The eSafety Commissioner is advancing a complex body of work with a wide range of differing stakeholder views and issues, including privacy and security,” the spokesperson said.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has been approached for comment.

Other groups have called for an effective ban on online pornography. Anti-porn group Collective Shout has called for all pornography to be treated under the same classification as child sexual abuse material or terrorism material, which should be removed or blocked in Australia.

Some companies have already started implementing age verification procedures. Google, for example, has been estimating a person’s age since March using information collected from that account, such as their search history. If the company ultimately needs to see identity documents, Google said it deletes those documents after verification.

Comments are closed.