BBFC Launches Resource Site

BBFC Launches Resource Site

LONDON — The BBFC yesterday launched, a resource site built to offer information about its upcoming role as U.K. age-verification regulator and how it will set and enforce standards for adult content on the internet.

Members of Parliament chose the BBFC — known formally as the British Board of Film Classification — to enforce statutes regarding accessibility to online content under the Digital Economy Act. Once implemented, the new policy not only will affect adult entertainment websites in the U.K. but potentially those worldwide.

Under the government’s plan, commercial adult sites will be forced to show they are verifying users are over 18. Failure to do so could block companies from taking credit card payments or even see their sites blocked by ISPs in the U.K.

As a result of the new law, a cottage industry of age-verification companies, including companies like AV Secure, AgeID and numerous others, have started up to offer solutions as third parties to verify users’ ages.

The BBFC age-verification site offers an array of menu items: A general FAQ section about the new statute, answers on how to get to market safely and information on guidance and enforcement, as well as its appeals process for violators. It also offers links to previous consultations and reports, and it plans to offer data on investigations and enforcement action. Notably, the site has a “report a website” button.

With the launch, the BBFC also released its latest draft guidance on the age-verification arrangements and the third-party providers.

In the paper, the BBFC noted an important development had come to light during the consultation phase: The regulatory agency could not be able to enforce data protection under its current plan.

As a result, the BBFC is working with age-verification providers to develop a “voluntary audit” system that would include provisions under data protection legislation.

“A large number of responses raised concerns about the potential for age-verification related data breaches, and highlighted a ‘regulatory gap’ between the BBFC and the Information Commissioner’s Office,” the BBFC said in the report.

“The BBFC has enforcement powers in relation to compliance with … the Digital Economy Act but is not able to enforce data protection legislation,” the BBFC said.

“The BBFC is working with age-verification providers, with input from the ICO, to develop a voluntary audit that would include provisions under data protection legislation. The results of this audit would be reported on the BBFC’s website.”

Yesterday, government officials also unveiled the BBFC’s website and guidance paper to fellow politicians, but they did not give a launch date for the age-verification policy.

According to a published report yesterday in the Mirror, some politicians warn that age verification could be costly for U.K. taxpayers if litigation arises.

"The government estimates a realistic risk range to be between £1 million to £10 million in the first year, based on likely number and scale of legal challenges," U.K. Digital Minister Margot James said in a written statement.

"This is a new law and there remains a risk that the BBFC will be exposed to legal challenge on the basis of decisions taken as the age-verification regulator or on grounds of principle from those opposed to the policy."