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Australia wants to verify porn users by scanning their faces

The UK has shown that might be difficult to implement.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
October 30, 2019
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Australia has proposed another in a series of zany attempts to control the internet. This time, the government wants to do facial scans to confirm a user's age before they can watch porn or gamble online, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Then, the government would verify the user's identity using another proposed scheme called the "Face Verification Service."

"Home Affairs is developing a Face Verification Service which matches a person's photo against images used on one of their evidence of identity documents to help verify their identity," the Home Affairs agency wrote in a submission. "This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent's driver license to circumvent age verification controls."

You'd think online porn would be the least of a government's concern, particularly given the complete failure of the UK to block it. Australia is bound to face many of the same issues, including the technical challenge of blocking anything on the internet in age of VPNs. There's also the thorny privacy issue of having to essentially create a database of porn viewers.

To enforce the proposed law, Australia would use a new facial recognition scheme that could be accessed by banks, government agencies, ISPs and other companies. That alone would be a privacy nightmare, creating a tempting target for hackers.

The government believes porn verification could work since other counties, including Italy and Denmark, have successfully created age verification systems for online gambling. A sex industry lobby group suggested that ISPs could simply provide stronger parental controls to allow parents to filter websites. However, the University of New South Wales' Law Society pointed out that nothing is 100 percent effective, as there are literally millions of domains and apps that let users get around blocking.

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