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Australia proposes face scanning for online porn

By Charlotte Ricca

Facial recognition could be used for age verification on porn and gambling sites

Australia proposes face scanning for online porn

Australia's Department of Home Affairs is proposing using facial recognition to identify the age of users of online pornography and gambling.

The department was responding to a parliamentary inquiry into the efficacy of age verification systems on pornographic and gambling websites.

To help confirm a user’s identity Home Affairs suggested using their Face Verification Service. This matches a person’s photo against images on their identity documents.

The department explained this “complements” its Document Verification Service and would help prevent the use of stolen or fake IDs.

“This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver licence to circumvent age verification controls," the department wrote.

"Whilst they are primarily designed to prevent identity crime, Home Affairs would support the increased use of the Document and Face Verification Services across the Australian economy to strengthen age verification processes.”

The Face Verification Service is not yet operational, as it is subject to the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 being passed. The bill was rejected last week by the intelligence and security committee because it lacked detail and privacy safeguards.

While the committee said they supported the objectives of the bill, they recommended complete redrafting.

The use of driver licence images through the Face Verification Service is also subject to the agreement of the states and territories.

That Australian government’s rejection of this identity matching service follows the UK’s decision to scrap the “porn block”. This new legislation would have forced porn websites to implement age verification or risk being blocked by UK internet service providers.

The new law was introduced in 2017 as part of the Digital Economy Act, and was due to take effect in 2018. However it was cancelled on October 16, 2019, due to technical, practical and legal difficulties. There were also privacy concerns, while critics said it was an attack on civil liberties.

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