The idea for this post came from a tweet earlier today:
Age-gating policies put everyone's privacy at risk.
Bills like Utah's HB 311, requiring parental consent for those under 18 to hold a social media account, would effectively require all users to submit proof of ID when they log onto social media, not just kids. pic.twitter.com/a8kUPIpMMS
— Chamber of Progress (@ProgressChamber) February 6, 2023
Of course, when we create new laws or tools, we focus on the problem in front of us. Whether that be, in this case, trying to enforce an age restriction or requiring identity verification in some odd attempt at making it more difficult for people to engage in anonymous speech, we too often forget the details of how that would work exactly.
This is one example. If we require everyone to share driver’s license information like we are now doing in Louisiana for adult websites, that data has to be stored somewhere.
Given the history of data breaches, why should we volunteer to hand that information to social media companies? They have no concept of privacy. A government that forces people to do so is using “looking out for children” as a cover to kill it off entirely.
I mentioned Louisiana earlier. A new law became effective on Jan. 1, requiring sites with pronographic materials to verify a user’s age before allowing them to access the site. This requires every adult to hand over their driver’s license or other identifying information before viewing material that is entirely legal for them to access. The result they are looking for is to shut down those sites entirely by making it very unlikely anyone agrees to do that. (In reality, I suspect all they’ve done is get a few more people in the state to buy a VPN connection, but whatever.)
Again, if we can’t keep data safe, we shouldn’t be storing it or requiring more and more places to store it. We should be finding ways to protect data privacy.