We are half way through 2017, yet this year has already proven a rambunctious time for digital lawmakers!
In the UK, discussion has been rife over recent changes in Internet law. The Investigatory Powers Act, which controversially allows our secret services to snoop on and record Internet habits, came into being earlier in the year. Against the advice of… well, almost everyone.
The US is hardly quiet on this front either. They are busily attempting to change net neutrality laws. The principle of net neutrality is that ISPs and the authorities must treat everything on the Internet the same, regardless of what it is. As an example, without net neutrality, if you used Sky as your ISP, they could block you from watching BBC or ITV. They could then effectively force you to pay for Sky content. More alarmingly, the government could censor websites that they don’t agree with!
What’s next for the Internet in the UK?
There will be further changes, which may affect Internet users more directly. Starting in April 2018, any website that publishes pornographic content will require that users prove their age by some form of identification. For example, a passport, driving licence or credit card details.
This seems a sensible precaution – after all, businesses check for ID when people visit bars, go to the cinema or buy tools. However, supplying a permanent copy of your identification digitally, over the Internet, is different and comes with its own set of problems. The most prominent being identity theft. Also, imagine if the website suffers from a data breach.
If your website is deemed by the Act to require an age gate, your business must implement the new robust check (simply asking for a visitor’s age without evidence will not suffice.)
It is obvious that children need to be protected from some online content; no-one could disagree with that. However, placing that responsibility on ordinary businesses seems crazy. Many of whom will not be well versed in digital security.
Should the responsibility for policing Internet access stand where it always has? Ensuring that parents and guardians are involved, to parent and guard their dependents? Or should personal use of the web be policed by businesses and governments, all of whom have their own agendas?
The debate will no doubt continue over the coming months and years. Watch this space!