Finding a Reasonable Approach to Verify Adults for Adult Activities

It is simple, really. Social activities like gambling, viewing pornography and purchasing alcohol, knives, drugs and other items that are considered “adult” by the majority of U.K. citizens should be restricted to adults or at least authorized by an adult.

To have access to or to purchase these at too early an age could be dangerous to a developing mind and the consequences could prove to be fatal.

What is the proper age for accessing adult information, goods or images? I’d say it’s very much a parental decision. Most would agree that based upon the immediate access to goods and services on the internet and the general lack of any restriction to these adult activities, efforts to shield the most vulnerable minors from adult content is a proper step by the U.K. government and the Digital Economy Bill.

Whilst the legislation and measures that have been passed are reasonable and appropriate for adult content, internet connected devices (iPhone, Android, Xbox, PlayStation, personal computer) still make access available regardless of the site restrictions put in place or parental intervention. Certainly those children who are desperate to access adult content will probably still find it even with the best of parental measures, however simply because some children may find a way to access content, not attempting to limit access by reasonable means cannot be the answer.

In other adult markets in the U.K. like gambling, Aristotle has excelled in providing age verification for over 10 years, including supporting the Social Responsibility objectives of eight of the top 10 U.K. and European gambling operators. Sophisticated age verification solutions have been built in an effort to restrict access by children and meet the stringent requirements of the U.K. Gambling Commission.

Finding a Reasonable Approach to Verify Adults for Adult Activities

Contrary to press reports, gambling companies do not simply rely on the use of credit cards to establish age, but use third party companies and credit reference agencies like Aristotle to validate age and identity against credit databases, electoral rolls and other government sources ensuring age compliance. Credit cards may be a good proxy for age in a risk-based approach for adult entertainment, but claims that this is the measure gambling companies use to meet age verification compliance is simply not accurate.

The use of credit card data could also create significant exposure to more phishing scams in the U.K.

The age verification service that these gambling leaders rely on is called Integrity and it is a global service provided by Aristotle International in the age verification KYC (Know Your Customer) markets. Supporting verification in over 135 countries, Integrity is a positive global approach to model services for adult verification.

What are the public policy goals of adult restriction? Aristotle works with many financial service companies, enabling them to take a “risk based approach” to compliance. In financial markets risk is assessed and Integrity’s customers apply different compliance measures and Integrity products to differing financial and money laundering risks to meet financial compliance guidelines for a specific country or financial situation.

It is therefore suggested that adult entertainment companies follow a parallel risk based approach for age verification for its users to gain access to adult entertainment content on the internet, or what can be considered social risk; the impact of underage access to explicit adult images and videos.

While it is not certain if anyone really knows the long-term risk of easily accessed explicit adult content, it is not a positive impact and likely a negative one on the social development of that child. This is what can be defined as social risk. Whether access to such content impacts a 13- or 16-year-old as greatly as a younger child might be a matter of debate and perhaps therefore be considered a lesser risk.

Accordingly, Aristotle suggests that measures be more flexible and that the reduction of social risk be risk based as well, so as to not overly burden adults while still protecting children.

How does that impact adult rights, free speech and adult access to such content?

Aristotle believes a social risk-based approach needs to take into account adult rights as well. Given the risk is primarily social risk with adult entertainment content versus financial and social risk in gambling, one should assess age and identity using multiple levels of data and risk scoring that is perhaps less rigid as gambling yet still restrict access to this adult content from children.

Aristotle supports the efforts of the Digital Economy Bill to apply a social risk based approach to internet access of such content that mirrors the measures in place to restrict physical access to such content in an adult entertainment environment.

Michael Bolcerek
Senior Vice President, Business Development               michael.bolcerek@aristotle.com

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