EFA Welcomes Government Decision To Reject Online Age Verification

EFA welcomes the Australian Government’s decision that forcing platforms to implement age verification, or “age assurance”, technologies would pose too high a risk to our privacy and security.

The government found that: 

“It is clear from the Roadmap that at present, each type of age verification or age assurance technology comes with its own privacy, security, effectiveness and implementation issues. […] Protections must be proportionate to the level of harm and respect the rights of citizens to privacy and security.”

In order for age verification to work effectively, as the government found, it must:

  • work reliably without circumvention; 
  • be comprehensively implemented, including where pornography is hosted outside of Australia’s jurisdiction; 
  • and balance privacy and security, without introducing risks to the personal information of adults who choose to access legal pornography. 

No method of age verification currently available satisfies all three of these conditions.

As an organisation that champions digital rights, EFA pays particular attention to the third condition: balancing privacy and security, without introducing risks. There is no method of age verification or “age assurance” that does not erode the privacy and right to anonymity of all users of a particular platform. 

In our submission on Restricted Access Systems in 2021, EFA warned, “Any age verification service will require the collection of sensitive personal information […] This information represents a valuable trove of personal data that will attract criminals seeking to monetise this personal information.”

The Age Verification Roadmap is a classic example of attempting to use the blunt hammer of technology to solve what is fundamentally a social issue, with little regard for the harmful effects on privacy and security of all people. 

Age verification entrenches surveillance. When we are fighting for our rights online, including the safety of children, we must not do so in a way that normalises these systems of surveillance. Surveillance is not safety. 

Without a federally enshrined Right to Privacy in Australia, we must be especially diligent when new legislation has the potential to erode our privacy further. The wave after wave of data breaches that we have endured these past few years means we cannot risk handing over more sensitive information to companies that cannot handle our data respectfully.

We look forward to more positive digital rights decisions by the Australian Government. EFA will be happy to continue assisting the government to develop sensible, workable, rights-respecting technology policies.

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