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Tech & Health: Australians Could Soon Have Mandatory Age Verification On Porn Sites

Australians could soon be forced in the next year to use a federal government identification verification service to access pornography sites.

It comes as a part of recommendations made by a House of Representatives parliament committee report released on Thursday, calling for the e-safety commissioner to develop a roadmap for age verification on porn sites.

Porn seekers in Australia could soon be forced to verify their age before gaining access to the explicit material online, in what could be an exchange hosted by the government to enable age verification without any sites hosting user’s personal information or data.

The committee said there should be minimal retention of personal information so as to not create a gathering of sensitive user data, including credit card details and identification documents.

If data must be contained, ‘it must be stored in a sensitive way,’ The Guardian says.

However, the committee did not recommend using the proposed facial verification service currently being developed by Home Affairs, on account the legislation was still being developed.

The committee’s recommendations come despite the UK abandoning a similar proposal for age verification last year.

The committee did acknowledge the plethora of porn sites available on overseas websites, wielded in Google searches, and on social network sites like Twitter would not be able to be retained. It also said many overseas sites would not comply with age verification requests from Australia in addition to young people being able to likely bypass verification systems.

But it still was adamant that age verification was the best measure to reduce harm.

‘We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,’ committee chair Andrew Wallace said.

The committee also flagged that more regulation could be considered to control social media and other sites. It did not rule out potentially bringing back mandatory internet filtering, as some suggestions in the submissions to the inquiry highlighted.

‘A clear message in evidence to the inquiry is that an effective response to the exposure of children and young people to online pornography will be broader than age verification,’ the committee said, according to the publication.

‘Other technical solutions, education, and a broader focus on e-safety will all contribute to minimising harms from online pornography and bringing about a safer online environment for our children.’

Under the current system, refused classification websites hosted in Australia can be ordered to remove the content, but only the e-safety commissioner passes on the list of those sites to internet service providers for opt-in family friendly filters.

Similar recommendations were made for online gaming sites and for loot boxes sold in video games.

Labor members also recommended further review and said the public may not trust a system that could potentially have unintended consequences around data security and privacy.

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