Age verification companies seek legal action against UK government after ludicrous “porn block” was scrapped

The scheme was controversial privacy-wise.


UK's ill-conceived and ill-fated plan to introduce mandatory age verification of internet users visiting pornographic websites is a problem that will not go away – even now that the idea has been abandoned.

Four companies who were supposed to come up with technology that would have allowed porn sites to verify their users' age are now seeking more than £3 million in damages from the British government. The BBC writes that these companies – AgeChecked, VeriMe, AVYourself and AVSecure – have asked the High Court to review the authorities' move to abandon the scheme and determine if the decision was lawful.

The idea to introduce what's become known as “porn block” that was supposed to prevent children from viewing age-inappropriate content first emerged in the UK in 2015, and the regulation was to take effect in April of 2018. But the controversial plan got hit by a series of delays, and mounting criticism over user privacy and also the ineffectiveness of the proposals, with the government finally throwing in the towel and dropping the idea late last year.

Most of the criticism focused on privacy concerns precisely around the age verification process, and a lack of clear guidelines in the government's proposal about how the checks would be implemented. Some suggestions included requiring visitors to upload scans of passports or driving licenses.

But digital rights groups warned against this, citing poor data security in the porn industry, and the danger of exposing people to blackmail and other harms.

“Age verification must not be pushed forward until there is compulsory privacy regulation put in place,” Open Rights Group said.

However, the companies now seeking compensation for losing a big government contract say that privacy and data security would have been guaranteed under their schemes – which they say are in line with the British Standards Institution rules. AgeChecked also claims that the process would have been “anonymous” and that personal data would not have been retained.

The BBC, on the other hand, writes that the government's porn block proposal did not require these companies to adhere to any tight privacy regulation – asking them instead to make “voluntary privacy commitments.”

These companies are now accusing the government of trying to gain political points ahead of UK's December election by dropping the unpopular plan.


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]