Australia’s Porn Industry Is Worried About Your Privacy If The Government’s Face Scan Plan Goes Ahead

Australia’s Porn Industry Is Worried About Your Privacy If The Government’s Face Scan Plan Goes Ahead

A peak porn industry body has hit back at an Australian government proposal to scan the faces of people accessing adult websites to try and prevent children from watching porn.

The Eros Association said a proposal to verify the ages of people accessing porn sites by comparing scans of their faces against a government facial recognition database would create an easy target for hackers.

“My fear would be people’s privacy,” Eros general manager Rachel Payne told BuzzFeed News. “What information could be captured by hacking someone’s records? The Department of Home Affairs would argue there’s no possibility. But our census has been hacked before, so who knows what could happen.”

“It will be interesting to see how many politicians are looking at porn. And I think they would have some interesting fetishes,” she added.

The Department of Home Affairs put forward the proposal in its submission to a parliamentary inquiry looking at age verification on online gambling and porn sites.

It suggested its Facial Verification Service could be used to cross-check a photograph of a person’s face against stored images from other ID. This could prevent the use of fake or stolen IDs to access online pornographic or gambling websites, the department wrote, giving the example of a kid “using their parent’s driver licence”.

The department wrote that the facial verification technology was “primarily designed to prevent identity crime” but that it supported increased use of it “across the Australian economy to strengthen age verification processes”.

Legislation permitting the use of the Facial Verification Service to catch identity crime was rejected earlier this month by a bipartisan parliamentary committee, citing privacy concerns.

The UK nixed a similar age verifying plan earlier this month, although the proposal didn’t specify using facial recognition for verification.

“I was under the impression that the face scanning was to protect people’s identity and to stop terrorism,” Payne said. “I don’t think it’s fair for Australia to put in limitations and verifications [for online adult websites]. It’ll probably just encourage people to host their services overseas. If you’re not under Australian law, technology can’t stop that.”

Payne said Australia’s “small, boutique” porn industry already verifies the ages of users and would be disproportionately affected by the plan, leaving international companies who can have less stringent age verification standards unaffected.

The Eros Association encourages Australian adult websites to use the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection’s “Restricted to Adults” label on their site, which helps parental filters by placing a tag in a website’s code marking it as not suitable for children.

In its submission to the same inquiry, the Eros Association recommended an “opt-in” model for internet service providers allowing households to choose to block porn websites to prevent children from accessing them.

Payne suspects that users who don’t want to link their real identity with their porn viewing habits will be able to circumvent the system anyway.

“People will just make workarounds, whole new ways to to watch. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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