The ICO's Age Appropriate Design Code released today includes changes which lessen the risk of widespread age gates, but retains strong incentives towards greater 'age gating' of content.
IMPACT ASSESSMENT MISSING IN ACTION
Over 280 ORG supporters wrote to the ICO about the previous draft code, to express concerns with compulsory age checks for websites, which could lead to restrictions on content.
Under the code, companies must establish the age of users, or restrict their use of data. ORG is concerned that this will mean that adults only access websites when 'age verified' creating severe restrictions on access to information.
The ICO's changes to the Code in response to ORG's concerns suggest that different strategies to establish age may be used, attempting to reduce the risk of forcing compulsory age verification of users.
However, the ICO has not published any assessment to understand whether these strategies are practical or what their actual impact would be.
The Code could easily lead to Age Verification through the backdoor as it creates the threat of fines if sites have not established the age of their users.
While the Code has many useful ideas and important protections for children, this should not come at the cost of pushing all websites to undergo age verification of users. Age Verification could extend through social media, games and news publications.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:
"The ICO has made some useful changes to their code, which make it clear that age verification is not the only method to determine age.
"However, the ICO don't know how their code will change adults access to content in practice. The new code published today does not include an Impact Assessment. Parliament must produce one and assess implications for free expression before agreeing to the code.
"Age Verification demands could become a barrier to adults reaching legal content, including news, opinion and social media. This would severely impact free expression.
"The public and Parliament deserve a thorough discussion of the implications, rather than sneaking in a change via parliamentary rubber stamping with potentially huge implications for the way we access Internet content."
Jim Killock firstname.lastname@example.org
ICO Age Appropriate Design Code, section 3: