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On 15 July 2019, UK will be the first country to implement measures about age verification for online pornography in order to ensure the protection of minors and user’s data.

This means that websites with pornographic content must create effective systems so as to check age of users and new measures will be taken, preserving user’s personal details and privacy. The commercial providers of online pornography will also be directly affected by the new laws as they will be obliged to follow exactly the relevant legislation, carrying out continuous age verification checks. On this basis, 88% of UK parents are without a doubt, in agreement with the new laws as they want to protect their children from exposure to this content and to dangers on the internet in general.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws. As it has been mentioned before, the legislation will be implemented on 5 July, leaving websites with this kind of content to adapt to the new situation and comply with the new rules. ‘’Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this’’ said the Minister of Digital Margot James.

However, the British Board of Film Classification does not make do only with the new legislation and compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards. Thus, BBFC decided to create a voluntary certification scheme, the Age Verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of AV providers, with the Government to be fully content with this innovative decision. More details about age verification providers will be posted on the BBFC’s age verification website.

BBFC Chief Executive David Austin supported that age validation system will remove minors from pornographic content and will ensure a more safe internet in the UK, supplementing: ‘’On entry into force, consumers will be able to identify that an age-verification provider has met rigorous security and data checks if they carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol.’’

The Government’s goal is to make the UK the safest online place in the world. According to this, CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting said that they are certain that Government will restrict and abolish online pornography, protecting thus children and specifically those who are not emotionally ready to receive such images. However, he also claimed: ‘’While our research shows that parents overwhelmingly support age-verification and are confident it will make a difference, we must recognize that digital solutions aren’t the only answer and parents can’t become complacent about their child’s digital world.’’ He also argued that the most right and appropriate is the dialogue and the discussion about such issues from an early age. This means that the parent’s role is equally important.

‘’Talking to children is vital and education has a major part to play here, and we need to ensure all young people are given a platform to discuss the pressures they face online and have the skills to spot and understand the gap between perception and reality. We are releasing a new extended PSHE toolkit later this month to address the issue of online pornography along with related topics of body image and healthy relationships,’’ mentioned Childnet Chief Executive Will Gardner.

UK data watchdog set restrictions on social media and their use of people who are under 18 years old in order to prevent minors.

Specifically, the UK wants to make social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat more responsible and safe for the under 18s, limiting the inappropriate content. The data watchdog has published a 16 rule code of practice for all online services who process the personal data of underage. According to the code, it is suggested to ban ‘’likes’’, location services and ad targeting, which constitute a serious reason for minors to spend more time on social media and become more addicted. It is also indicated to create more accurate and effective age verification systems which could lead to more safe use of the accounts on social media.

The code of practice has not yet been implemented as it must first be enforced for the Parliament this year. The ICO, though, believes that it will be in effect by 2020 and mentions that those who do not adhere to the code, will be fined up to 20 million euros according to the General Data Protection Regulation. ‘’The internet and all its wonders are hardwired into their everyday lives’’ said the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham and supplemented: ‘’ we shouldn’t have to prevent our children from being able to use it, but we must demand that they are protected when they do. This code does that.’’

Moreover, the Internet Association UK claimed that is also important to create regulation about the age verification, which can really be implemented and taken into consideration. ‘’Any new guidelines must be technically possible to implement in practice, and not stifle innovation and opportunities for smaller platforms,” said its executive director Daniel Dyball.

Democratic U.S. senators made a survey about the famous vaping company Juul in San Francisco in order to limit the growing sale of vaping products to minors.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the company to answer some of their questions about their youth marketing tactics and the reasons of cooperation with Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris. It is important to mention that 70 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market belongs to Juul, which is one of the largest companies in this field, selling nicotine pods with different flavors.

In November, under pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Juul delayed the sale of its flavored pods in order to remove young people from vaping but continued selling them online. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posed some important questions to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and specifically to the chairman, Rep. Frank Pallone, who aims to combat the youth vaping. Therefore, the chairman decided to introduce a new law about the restriction of the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and in general of such products.

‘’While Juul has promised to address youth vaping through its modest voluntary efforts, by accepting $12.8 billion from Altria — a tobacco giant with such a disturbing record of deceptive marketing to hook children onto cigarettes — Juul has lost what little remaining credibility the company had when it claimed to care about the public health,” the Senate letter said and continued that although investors are satisfied with the constant use of cigarettes by young people as their profits are increased, the senators never stop fighting against the abolishment of such products to minors.

‘’We welcome the opportunity to share information regarding Juul Labs’ commitment to curbing underage use of our products while fulfilling our mission to eliminate combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in our country,” Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said in a statement and supplemented that it is their duty to combat the use of youth vaping products. According to the Senate letter, it is asked a full account of the advertising buys so as to be confirmed that the ads are not seen by people under 21 and it is also requested the presentation of sales figures. Juul is obliged to respond to the previous questions until April 25.

After a survey conducted by Northland police and health officials, it was found that 3 of 31 stores, sold alcohol to minors.

Specifically, Northland District Health Board and Police staff conducted last week two Controlled Purchase Operations (CPOs) at licensed premises in Northland, remaining though, disappointed with the result in one of the districts. The goal of the two operations was to check the stores in the area and how employees treat minors. Therefore, based on the above plan, volunteers, younger than 18 years old, visited the stores in the Far North and Whangarei in order to buy alcoholic products.

According to the results, the storekeepers in Whangarei, did not allow any sale of alcohol to young people as opposed to the Far North, where three sales were made at the 15 outlets. Alcohol Harm Prevention Officer, Mid/Far North Police Senior Constable Rasau Kalivati, the results were disappointing as all purchases should have been banned.

“I cannot stress strongly enough that holders of a liquor license should ask for identification if they are in doubt of the age of a customer or where the customer appears under 25 years of age.” Κalivati mentioned that the storekeeper must first verify the age of the client and only if he is over 18 years old, to allow the sale and he also said: ‘’ As a community, we need to have confidence that license holders will not sell alcohol to our youth.’’

In general, the police attended all the premises that sell alcoholic products to the volunteer. In the area Whangarei, all the licensed premises applied effective age verification systems which means that police was fully satisfied. Thus, Controlled Purchase Operations (CPOs) are conducted to assess whether stores follow or violate the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 and prevent minors from such products.

The new gambling regulator started functioning and is to be implemented by 2020 and specifically in 18 months, in Ireland, as it would need legislative approvals.

Betting companies receive their license from the Revenue Commissioners as there is no other body, undertaking the consumer protection measures. According to a study, it was mentioned that the Irish regulator, will be similar to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which regulates the UK National Lottery in Great Britain.

David Stanton, the Minister of State talked about the regulator, supporting that gambling must be a safe and fair, entertaining vehicle for all the users. The Inter-Departmental Working (IDW) Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling released a series of Cabinet-approved recommendations for the new regulator recently. Their purpose is to change all the regulations that have been applied since 1956, under the Gaming and Lotteries Act and the recent ones voted in 2013. Τhe reason is that none of these regulations are adapted to the current era and to recent changes in gambling technology.

According to the new rules, signing up to such games will be allowed only to those over the age of 18, which also means that gambling offers and advertisements will not be directed at them. The new regulator will oversee online gambling, advertisements, and sponsorships and will also enforce compliance and conduct on-site inspections.

David Stanton, expressed his concerns about online gaming in Ireland as gambling has risen sharply on the Irish market with 2/3rd of the population being users in the last 12 months. Thus, the Gaming and Lotteries Bill 2019 has been approved to tighten up the age verification system and also create new rules for the application of licenses and permits.

 

The UK parliamentary committee interrogated the two top Snap executives as they considered that the age verification system of the application was not effective.

Snap’s senior director of international public policy, Stephen Collins, and EMEA director of creative strategy, Will Scougal were called by lawmakers after a particular incident that happened about Snapchat. Specifically, this happened when the family of a murdered British teenager, received messages through Snapchat, whose sender seemed to be his killer.

Labour MP Ian Lucas, pointed some weaknesses in the age verification system, trying to sign up himself to the application and putting his year of birth as 2008. The system at the beginning did not allow him to sign up, but by setting his real age, he was given access. Therefore, Ian Lucas concluded that users who are under 13 years old can easily find many ways to violate and delude the system. “Your age verification system does not work for a popular way of signing up to Snapchat. Do you agree?” Lucas asked. Collins replied: “On the initial sign-up, certainly we agree.”

In addition to this, Collins also mentioned that if underage users try to sign up via a web browser, systems might catch them out by cookies. Although there is no analytical number of users, the overall percentages indicate that most choose to sign up via the application and after a survey, which conducted, it founded that Snap has approximately 186 million daily active users.

Τhe application also looks, during the registration, for ‘’inference signals’’ to validate the real age of users, which are though not precisely defined and explained. Moreover, another important question concerns the number of users who have been removed from the application due to their young age, in which Scougal replied: ‘’I’m afraid we don’t have the number’’.

 

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) decided to pass the new law, to make the gambling space safer and fairer, which is to be implemented on May 7, 2019.

The new legislation provides the interception of criminal activity, which will be achieved by gathering more information and personal data for users before joining at online gambling platforms. This is means that customers will be more protected as their identity will be verified before playing at online casinos or new bingo sites in the UK. According to a survey that conducted by UK Gambling Commission, it is founded that the 15% of users complained about the withholding of their winnings by online gambling operators, which is another reason for their protection.

After the implementation of the new rules about age verification, operators will be forced to check user’s age before they gamble online. Thus, young people will be safer and less exposed to the dangers of gambling and the Internet in general. In addition to this, the new legislation of UKGC does not define a specific process of age verification as each operator is required to apply an age validation procedure.

It is also important to mention that those who not comply with the new rules, will be penalized with an economic fine. Therefore, the penalty is a good reason to prevent the operators from violating the new legislation. Moreover, a lot of players will be deterred from opening new accounts at new online gambling sites in order to avoid having to go through a potentially long process to deposit money in an online gambling account. However, the most important is that new rules will help customers and specifically young people to have safer access to gambling sites.

TES Affiliate Conference 2019 welcomed AGEify, our innovative application for online age verification, in Lisbon. The event was organized by The European Summit and held from 1 to 4 March 2019 at the Oitavos Hotel, in Cascais.

TES Affiliate Conference is one of the largest events, in which professionals from the online entertainment industry, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, advertising, gaming, gambling and financials are gathered in order to live a great networking experience for 3 days. On the first day of the event, the program included various activities, thus welcoming the participants and giving them the opportunity to meet as many new business associates as possible. Apart from that, a 3 hour meeting was also held in the first day, where all the attendees introduced themselves and presented their digital products and services. Furthermore, the next two days included the most interesting part of the event where seminars, speeches, product and speed presentations were held. In a few words, with over 80 speakers, 150 exhibitors and plenty of networking sessions, participants had many opportunities to create new contacts and get new ideas to improve their products.

Our AGEify team participated in the TES Affiliate conference, which offered us the opportunity to have new contacts with other important business associates and to present and develop our application. AGEify’s goal is through online age validation, to help Internet to become a safer place, especially for people, who are under 18 years old. Therefore, the participation in such events is an important step, so that the application achieve the optimal operation and leave its own distinct ‘’spot’’ in the world of applications.

 

AGEify, our innovative solution for online age verification, participated in MWC 2019, in Barcelona. The event was held from 25 to 28 February 2019 at Fira Gran Via.

MWC Barcelona is the biggest mobile event in the world, in which professional speakers and more than 2.400 leading companies, representing big consumer brands, take part each year. This year in particular, a variety of events were held at the MWC, such as the global business platform for tech start-ups which included workshops, conference sessions and competitions; also the Mobile World Summit, a meeting between top executives with speeches, discussions and networking opportunities. The participants also had the chance to attend GSMA Seminars, which were presented by specialized people who know all the essential industry developments and themes. The main theme of the event this year was ‘’Intelligent Connectivity’’, which concerns the powerful combination of flexible, high speed 5G networks, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AGEify team joined in the MWC 2019 and had the opportunity to increase its business knowledge, expand its professional network and get more into the technology field. It’s important to mention that AGEify works like a passport. Our innovative application constitutes an easy, accurate and privacy-preserving manner, which via several methods enables the verification of any age, including that of minors. Currently, the first version of our solution is already available and we are looking for partners to use it and expand it internationally.

The new app for teens to share fun videos, TikTok was the cause that led many schools to send letters to the parents across the UK, as it has constituted a ‘’hunting ground’’ for pedophiles.

Specifically, according to a report in the Mirror, young children were intimidated through the application and were exposed to content that glorifies anorexia and self-harm. In some schools, it has been said that maybe the application has been created in order to stalk teenage girls. In addition to this, the Mirror’s reporting team made many investigations about the danger posed by the app and it found that there was greater use of the application when children were on their mid-trimester break. However, while TikTok insists users must be at least 13 years old but the application asks for no proof of age when registering.

Many videos are uploaded to the app, one of which showed a teenage girl dancing, receiving comments like ‘’Take off your clothes’’, while other videos show young people to expose their skeletal ribs, trying to inspire other children to become like them.

On the basis of what has been mentioned above, the conclusion seems to be that social media regulation is not as strict as it should be. Indeed, one primary school in Cornwall said: “Parents of children in Year 3 to Year 6 have been horrified by what children are exposed to’’ while one North Yorkshire school advised: “If the profile is open, strangers can comment on your child’s videos. While this isn’t always sinister, it lets potential predators contact your child.”

Chris Keates, of teaching union the NASUWT, warned: “Today its TikTok, tomorrow it will be another site.’’ Young people will be at risk as long as their safety is not a priority on the websites and social media in general and no strict measures are being taken by the government about age verification.

In particular, the Department of Media, Culture, and Sport supported: “We expect tech companies to remove child sexual abuse content, stop online grooming, and have robust age verification.” A TikTok spokesman replied that they have taken important steps in order to protect minors and that they are committed to deleting the accounts that do not comply with the new rules.

 

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