Feeds

Proof of age system moves net ID a step closer

But gov ID may be set back

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The UK moved one step closer to online ID for all last week as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) decided to give accreditation to NetIDme’s age verification software. But for once this may be not cause for complete doom and gloom. Also added to the list are GB Group (with their URU product) and 192.com.

In one sense this step – or one very like it - was inevitable. As El Reg reported back in May, BBFC online uses the Board’s famous ‘black cards’ and category symbols to enable users downloading new media content to judge whether it is suitable for consumption.

However, as the BBFC also announced at the time, it was looking for partners with whom it could work, to ensure that downloads needed some form of positive age-verification: it is a requirement of BBFC online that e-tailers and Video on Demand services have in place age verification software to enable parents to monitor and control underage viewing.

Step forward NetIDme. Under cover of a suitably unpronounceable brand name, NetIDme launched what it claims to be the world’s first online ID card for adults and children two years ago. Chief executive Alex Hewitt said: “BBFC.online is a revolutionary scheme that enables the application of the same rules in the online world that have been developed over many years to protect people in the real world.”

Not surprisingly, therefore, he is over the moon that his software is one of the first to be accredited by the BBFC, describing it as a “ringing endorsement”.

Opponents of ID in any form will be outraged. Well-known anti-censorship site MelonFarmers inveighed against NetIDme (19 July) on the grounds that a database of people’s porn-viewing habits would undoubtedly be of great interest to government. In this case, however, the chances are that they are wrong.

The principles underlying NetIDme’s technology are far closer to the Open Source ID project and involve the assembling of key data items to create a “token” that users may use as future verification of age. Thereafter, they claim, the data is then disassembled again. Hey presto! Individual ID, without a massive underlying database.

Crossing wires

This is rather different from, say, the direction taken by GB Group, which uses matching against a number of underlying databases (Birth Register, Postal Address File, Electoral Register) to create a virtual record that then determines whether you are who you say you are.

GB Group also makes use of fuzzy matching techniques where an exact match is not possible.

So NetIDme would appear to be useful where you want something akin to an online ID card (without the underpinning database), while GB Group is more appropriate for one-off purchases.

Neither solution is quite the same as the government approach, which is all about large central databases with enormous hacking potential. It may be that this new approach will, in the long run, be one of the strongest arguments yet against a national database.

If one can achieve the stated aims of government by use of tokens or fuzzy matching they have very few legs left to stand on.

Meanwhile in the States, an interesting by-product of this new approach emerges from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal. This re-iterated the stance now familiar to US legislators, that American jurists find the Child Online Protection Act “over-broad” and in danger of exerting a chilling effect on speech.

It also added an interesting new argument – which was that the government now needs to seriously consider whether filtering software has reached the point where some elements of internet policing may safely be placed back in the hands of parents. In other words, as technology starts to heal itself, the scope for government intervention becomes less.

Watch this space, as the issue almost inevitably now heads for the Supreme Court. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.