Online age verification ‘roadmap’ with government

A roadmap charting a way forward on Australia’s proposed mandatory age verification regime for online pornography has been delivered to the federal government after almost two years of development by the eSafety Commissioner.

The age verification roadmap was handed to the Albanese government on Friday, coinciding with the deadline on the final draft of the online safety codes that have been developed by the tech industry.

The roadmap was requested by the former Coalition government in June 2020 as part of its response to the bipartisan parliamentary inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography.

As part of its response, the former government also gave in principle support to a recommendation that the government’s digital identity scheme be used to verify the ages of people accessing pornography.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant at the World Economic Forum.

eSafety, which has led the consultation on a potential legislative and regulatory framework for age verification, was originally given until December 2022 to develop the roadmap, but was afforded more time in October 2022.

On Friday, the eSafety Commissioner said the feedback received during its consultation with industry, academia and the wider public, including children, had indicated that any age verification scheme would need to “strike the right balance”.

“Without pre-empting any decisions by government, eSafety’s research and engagement in developing the roadmap has identified that any potential technological solutions need to strike the right balance between safety, security and privacy,” it said.

“They must also go hand in hand with education and awareness raising for children and young people, as well as parents, carers, educators and other supporting adults.”

A variety of options for age verification were explored during the development of the roadmap, the majority of which were flagged in submissions as having privacy and security risks or presenting surveillance concerns.

Options include digital identity apps that allow individuals to store personal information on their device, physical age tokens, database checks, credit card checks, and facial recognition or other biometric data.

The eSafety Commissioner is also planning to address children’s access to “high-impact content that can be harmful to children”, including pornography, through the second phase of the mandatory industry-developed online safety codes.

The first phase of the codes developed by local tech industry associations were due on Friday, but it is far from clear whether they will be registered by the eSafety Commissioner, who was still working through “red line” with industry last week.

Industry redrafted the codes in response to feedback from the eSafety Commissioner and released them to the public last month after being granted a short extension to address areas of concern.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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