Proposed law to force ID checks on Britons accessing adult entertainment online
The UK could see the introduction of identity checks for people who access adult entertainment on the internet as part of a pledge by the Conservatives.
A scheme proposed by the adult entertainment industry would require websites to verify visitors’ identities with reference to banks, the NHS or credit reference agencies.
The news comes ahead of an expected law which would force adult sites to include age checks and would block websites failing to comply.
Critics, however, have said the policy raises serious privacy issues with some saying it is a step towards a Chinese-style internet.
Myles Jackman (pictured), a lawyer who specialises in obscenity law said:“This is cutting-edge censorship.
“We are now becoming the world leaders in censorship.
“And we are being watched very closely from abroad.”
Adviser to the Digital Policy Alliance, the “politically neutral, cross-party policy voice of the internet and technology sector” Dr Rachel O’Connell, an expert in online child safety, said: “Nobody in the UK wants a centralised identity database,”
“The way around that is that Royal Mail knows who you are, your mobile operator knows who you are.”
Ms O’Connell added that adult sites would offer users different options for verifying their identity and age – from their mobile phone operator to the Department of Work and Pensions.
The user would then sign in and their credentials would be checked against the data held by the relevant body.
Checks would then go through an “anonymising hub” – meant to remove identifying information on either end.
Theoretically, the provider and the website would not know the identity of the user, merely that they are over 18.
Critics, however, warn there is a risk of users’ privacy being breached, whether intentionally by hackers, domestic or international intelligence agencies or by accident.
Jerry Barnett, author of the Sex & Censorship blog, said: “This is the state, yet again, intervening in people’s private lives for no reason other than good old British prurience and control-freakery.”
On the legality of any such system, Mr Jackman said: “As a matter of international law, I don’t understand how it can possibly work.
“And I don’t understand how it can work under the Obscene Publications Act. It’s just being made up as they go along.”