Age Verification - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:31 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench 2:31 pm, 20th June 2019

I also regret this and am very sad about it. We have already been waiting for two years. Talk about dragging feet on this; I cannot believe it takes so long. I do not understand what the problem is with the guidance on age-verification arrangements. I have read it again and it does not contain anything technical. It lays out some fairly obvious things in plain English; it talks about various aspects of this and ends up saying that the Government would like to set up a voluntary certification scheme. That is about it; there is no technical stuff in there at all, so I am not sure why this is being used as an excuse to delay further. Could it possibly be because the BBFC has just launched a certification scheme that is really only about data protection? That is not its job; it is deliberately excluded from the Digital Economy Act. Data protection is the job of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which can levy huge fines. The BBFC is meant to be worrying about age verification and the protection of children online. Why is its certification scheme not about that? Its scheme is very heavyweight on the GDPR—or DPA 2018—stuff. Does it, therefore, think it needs more time? Was this just an excuse to delay it a little further?

If the Government are to issue new guidance in the autumn, I hope they will look at the British Standard. I also hope they will talk to the age-verification providers. They know how to do this, and how to do it anonymously. This is why, looking at the guidance, the BBFC says that the websites should not do it themselves. People bounce off, get verified elsewhere and get an anonymous, encrypted token back to prove they have done it. There is no problem or technical glitch with this. The Home Office may need to start talking to people who know how to do it; this really worries me.

The certification scheme is a good idea, so the websites know that the age-verification providers are all covered correctly. You need the GDPR stuff in there, but can it please be primarily about age verification and not be ridiculously expensive? At the moment, we are looking at £20,000 a pop for the scheme that the BBFC is proposing. A proper scheme, using the BEIS guidance, through the UK Accreditation Service, would have done a proper accreditation for certification providers for a quarter of the price or less. The Government have wasted a lot of money setting this scheme up and a lot of other people will waste a lot of money trying to get certification. As it is not really for age verification, it gives no guarantees of safety. Why are the Government doing it this way? As the whole thing is voluntary anyway, and certification not compulsory, why are they still delaying. Why does the BBFC not just start enforcing on 15 July? People are not going to put in age verification. Why disadvantage yourself, at extra cost, when you have no reason to do so? The websites will not do it until the last minute. In the meantime, the age-verification providers, which are all ready to go, are suffering economically very badly as a result of this delay.