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05th Dec 2023

People who watch adult content in the UK could have faces scanned under new rules

Charlie Herbert

People who watch adult content in the UK could have faces scanned under new rules

There are concerns over the age at which children are accessing online pornography

Porn users could have their faces scanned to make sure they are old enough to access adult content, it has been suggested.

In draft guidance from the media watchdog Ofcom set out a number of ways that adult websites could stop children from accessing their content.

One of the suggestions is that users have their faces scanned to prove they are old enough. Extra checks would be in place for young-looking adults.

It comes after a survey found that the average age children first view pornography is 13.

According to Ofcom, nearly 14 million people watch online pornography in the UK. But the ease of internet access for children in the modern age has prompted fears about the age at which they are first seeing porn.

The Children’s Commissioner found in a survey that one in ten children have seen porn by the age of 10.

The Online Safety Act requires social media platforms and search engines to protect children from harmful online content, and Ofcom has now outlined how companies should comply with the regulations.

These regulations will come into force at some point in 2025, the BBC reports.

The media regulator has said age checks must be “highly effective at correctly determining whether or not a particular user is a child.”

Along with the idea of face scans, the suggestions made by Ofcom include:

  • Websites requiring government photographic ID such as a passport or driving license, which is “then compared to an image of the user at the point of uploading to verify that they are the same person.”
  • Checking if the user has previously had age restrictions removed from a mobile phone
  • Users allowing their bank to share information with the website confirming they are over 18
  • Providing credit card details to the website
  • Digital ID wallets that store a user’s proof of age which can be shared with the site

Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Pornography is too readily accessible to children online, and the new online safety laws are clear that must change.

“Our practical guidance sets out a range of methods for highly effective age checks. We’re clear that weaker methods – such as allowing users to self-declare their age – won’t meet this standard.

“Regardless of their approach, we expect all services to offer robust protection to children from stumbling across pornography, and also to take care that privacy rights and freedoms for adults to access legal content are safeguarded.”

But the potential extra security measures have been criticised by some, including explicit website Pornhub.

The website’s owner, Aylo, said it supports age verification but that the collection of “highly sensitive personal information is putting user safety in jeopardy.”

The company argues that the best way to control what children access online is through age-verification measures “on the device”, such as parental controls on phones and computers.

Meanwhile privacy campaigners have also criticised the proposals, raising concerns over the “catastrophic” consequences if data from age checks is leaked.

Earlier this year, Pornhub disabled its website for the entire state of Utah in protest over new age verification laws in the US state.

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