WSJ: Why Age Verification Is So Difficult for Websites

February 27, 2022

For users determined to flout rules, “there are going to be straightforward workarounds,” says Jake Wiener, domestic surveillance law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit research group.

For instance, children could use a parent’s cellphone or a prepaid credit card to sign up for a site, or an older sibling could help them. Also, giving out sensitive information to websites can create vulnerabilities for users. Credit-card information and other identity documents held by websites could be hacked or leaked. 

At the same time, adults will have to jump through more hoops to do legal things online, like looking at pornography. And it puts groups with less access to identification or in more need of privacy—such as undocumented people, LGBT youth and sex workers—at higher risk. “History has shown that marginal communities will be impacted more severely by these laws,” says Daly Barnett, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit online-rights organization.

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