Online age verification for alcohol purchases is on trial in Australia, new documents reveal, as federal government examines whether similar technology could be applied to gambling sites and sites for adults.
The Morrison government has tasked Electronic Security Commissioner Julie Inman Grant with developing a ‘roadmap’ for an age verification system for adult content by the end of 2022, but documents published under freedom of information laws reveal that options are already being tested.
Write talking points and a set of slides starting in early August posted on the Right to Know transparency site this week, show that the Digital Transformation Agency has prepared for age verification and digital ID testing starting in September of this year.
According to the talking points, the trial was to be conducted with online retailers in Australia, using external identity providers Australia Post and Mastercard.
Beta trials were expected to last between three and six months, with 100 users per use case, starting first with online alcohol purchases in September and then on gambling sites on a date to be determined. .
When asked about the trials, the Digital Transformation Agency insisted that it “was not actively participating in these trials” which it said were run by private companies.
“DTA’s work with the private sector on the topic of online age verification has focused on discussions and discovery activities with organizations engaged in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) accreditation process ), “said a spokesperson.
The DTA did not respond to questions about the companies involved or the number of clients recruited.
The documents reveal that the government plans to use the trials to inform online age verification policy and track the impact on revenue, as well as adoption and customer experience.
“Report transaction volumes, technical integration efforts, and ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ authentication ratios to inform the digital identity billing framework and system monitoring,” the notes read.
The report acknowledges that the trial is limited to these two areas and does not explore age verification for online pornography or social media, but says the trials could be extended in 2022 to cover lootboxes in the video games, as well as the use of government mygovid as a form of age verification.
The Points recommend that the DTA consider whether digital identity legislation would cover age verification and prepare an “education campaign”, focusing on privacy and security, accuracy and efficiency, and the impact on businesses and users.
In September, Mastercard announced that it was working with the DTA to explore how its digital ID service could support age verification, including signing up for accreditation for the government’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework. , which defines the rules for digital ID providers.
The company said it would offer the services to businesses, but that credentials would be encrypted and use facial biometrics, “keeping users in full control of their data and ensuring that only they can access and use it. “.
In August meeting notes between the DTA and the Security Commissioner, a DTA staff member said at the meeting that the agency is focused on finding a less invasive system for the user while determining if they were over 18.
“We prefer systems that do not place an unnecessary burden on those who wish to access the content or services to which they are entitled to use,” they said.
The announcement of Mastercard’s involvement in digital ID has raised concern among creators of adult content due to the seemingly strict rules for adult sites to keep and maintain records, making sites a target for hackers looking for personal information.
Details of the planned trial come as the Online Safety Act – the legislation that started the process to start requiring age verification for online content – comes into force at the end of January of this year. next.
In addition to describing how the adult cyberbullying program will come into effect – giving the commissioner the power to issue social media takedown notices on abusive content – regulatory guidance released by Inman Grant on Thursday confirmed plans to expand a code for social media sites, messaging services, search engines, applications and internet service providers to ensure that adult content is not accessible to children within six months of the law coming into force .
Security must make reasonable efforts to ensure that an adequate code for each section of the online industry is registered within six months of the law coming into force. However, the law allows standards to be imposed if the online industry cannot agree on codes, ”the document said.
Tech companies have previously raised concerns that the plan would force all adult content and sex workers to go offline.