June 21st, 2024

Could a Senate bill cause age verification laws to apply to Netflix? Experts say yes

By The Canadian Press on May 28, 2024.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Philippe Dufresne takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. Dufresne and a government official are warning legislators to dramatically narrow the scope of a Senate bill proposing to block minors from accessing "sexually explicit material" online, warning it could apply to streaming services like Netflix. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – Canada’s privacy czar and a government official warn that a Senate bill proposing to block minors from “sexually explicit material” online could apply to streaming services such as Netflix.

Philippe Dufresne, the country’s privacy commissioner, and Owen Ripley, a deputy minister at Canadian Heritage, say legislators should dramatically narrow the bill’s scope.

They were the first to testify at a parliamentary committee tasked with studying the bill proposed by Independent Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne.

The legislation would require sites like PornHub to verify the age of users so minors don’t access sexual material.

Experts like University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who specializes in internet and e-commerce law, say age verification technology is not there yet and the “fundamentally flawed” bill raises major privacy concerns.

And privacy lawyer David Fraser says “sexually explicit material” as defined in the bill could mean it applies to search engines, social-media giants, e-book publishers and even streaming services.

During the committee hearing late Monday, Ripley testified that as it is written, the proposed law would make it a rule for services like Netflix to verify the age of their users.

Dufresne said the bill raises questions about what content could be captured, which is why he said he’s recommending that legislators amend it to target websites providing “sexually explicit material” for commercial purposes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2024.

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