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Australia's Department of Home Affairs Wants to Face-Scan People Watching Porn

Peter Dutton and his cronies think people should have to verify their identities before opening 20 incognito tabs of Internet smut.
October 29, 2019, 6:45am
Man watching porn, woman orgasm face
Image via Pxhere (L) and Pixabay (R)

If you’re in Australia and looking at Internet porn, Department of Home Affairs wants to have a look at you.

In the latest dystopian nightmare to have come out of Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo’s political corner, the Department has suggested performing face scans on people who are trying to access age restricted websites, Fairfax reports. The scanned image would then be cross-checked with another identity document that Home Affairs already has on file—a driver’s licence, for example—in order to ascertain whether that person is of legal age to be watching other people having sex.

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"This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent's driver licence to circumvent age verification controls," the Department wrote to a parliamentary inquiry into age verification for online pornography and gambling.

The suggestion comes less than a week after the federal government unsuccessfully proposed a separate facial recognition scheme, which would have allowed Home Affairs to collect identity information and store it in an “interoperability hub” that could be accessed by Commonwealth and state and territory governments, according to the ABC. Federal Parliament's joint intelligence and security committee ultimately knocked back that proposal, on the grounds that such a system might impact people’s human rights, particularly the right to privacy.

The idea that porn viewers should be subjected to face scans also less than a fortnight after the UK turfed a somewhat similar idea, which would have forced online pornography viewers to hand their identification over to third-party verification systems in order to prove their age. As VICE’s Emma Garland reported: “sites which didn't or couldn't age-verify users would have been blocked, which would have put a massive financial strain on independent production companies, and content would have been regulated in compliance with outdated obscenity laws that ban acts from face-sitting to female ejaculation.”

The University of New South Wales' Law Society pointed to this very proposal when responding to Home Affairs’ suggested porn crackdown, stressing that the UK's scheme was unable to guarantee the anonymity of users, and could have forced them to use multiple third-party age verification systems—potentially leaving them vulnerable to data breaches.

For the millions of people who plastered stickers over their webcams for the exact purpose of concealing their identities while wanking, this is probably all going to sound a bit too Black Mirror for comfort. But the Department’s proposal does have some support.

The South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence, for one, suggested that restricting young people’s access to porn would allow them to learn about sex under more appropriate circumstances. Which seems like a reasonable assertion. The sex industry lobby group Eros Association, meanwhile, suggests that the responsibility of keeping children out of the smutty nether regions of the Internet falls to service providers, who should be implementing stronger parental controls.

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