Schneier on Security
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June 19, 2007
Age Verification for Movie Trailers
It seems like "We want to protect children" really means, We want to give the appearance that we've made an effort to protect children. If they really wanted to protect children, they wouldn't use the honor system as the sole safeguard standing between previews filled with sex and violence and Internet-savvy kids who can, in a matter of seconds, beat the impotent little system.
Posted on June 19, 2007 at 6:12 AM
• 38 Comments
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I am not sure what you are saying is ridiculous. Using an honour system for age verification in a totally unimportant context, or objecting to using an honour system for it?
Here's counting down the seconds until the MPAA files criminal charges against this guy for Internet fraud (or breaking some DMCA-like law with regard to abetting underage access to adult material), and law enforcement raids his house and takes away anything vaguely resembling a computer?
Well, there's a chance that they'll just decide it's better damage control to just ignore him instead.
At least I got a good laugh that surfers older than 88 years old were denied access also....
This is nothing new and just as pointless. I was trying to identify which Tequila a friend should bring back for me as a gift on a recent trip to the US and came across the same thing on the El Tesoro website (http://www.eltesorotequila.com/) - completely pointless and just a "See! We made the effort!"
@ Ben Liddicott
I thinks he's saying that calling an honor system "security" (or "access control", etc.) is ridiculous.
I'm more bothered by the fact that some distributors run R-rated trailers at the front of PG-13 movies (which, if I'm not mistaken, they're not supposed to do).
Even if it's a PG-13 trailer for an R-rated movie, it's still no good because they're still marketing (ostensibly) an R-rated movie to an underage crowd.
PG-13 movies, as they are, contain a lot of material that I certainly don't want my 13-, 14-, 15-, or even 16-year-old exposed to. So, yeah, the rating system is broken and doesn't protect youngsters from .
I have another "issue" with the system. Reading the article, people that live outside the US are shut out... unless they know a random US zip code. It could be a design feature, to keep the trailers to the local market.
It's the same old problem about authentication at a distance.
You cannot prove anything about yourself at a distance without an external trusted agency, so asking the question is at best (from the authentication process) a bit silly.
However it does serve as a warning to people and make them stop and think (maybe).
But most importantly it covers the organisation from prosecution (which is probably why it's there).
One of the joys of the Internet is freedom to be who or what you want when you want without let or hinderance. This kind of turns authoritarian aproches to life on their head.
However with the freedom comes responsability for the individual themselves.
And that at the end of the day is the point. If a "minor" has the technical sophistication to use the Internet do they have the required level of self responsability?
Sometimes we misjudge our children and try to be overly restrictive, and therby end up hurting them more.
Well I think parents should be allowed to decied what our children/teens can watch. To that end I read why a movie is R16 or R. Also my daughter is quite mature for her age, so i don't have a problem with some R16 content. but not All of it.
I do expect her to follow the law however. So R16 movies (she 15) are strictly at home only and not even at a friends place unless we have checked it out.
Unfortunalty there are R16 movies that don't need to be and PG movies that should be R13 at least. They are very inconsistant.
As far as I'm concerned, trailers of R movies should not have R content in them. I think advertising R movies in a PG movie is fine as is the other way round. After all I go to all of them. R18 movies might be a different story depending on the reason its a R18 (aka adult movie....)
And what about the current music videos? More like soft porn if you ask me.
> PG-13 movies, as they are, contain a lot of material that I certainly don't want my 13-, 14-, 15-, or even 16-year-old exposed to. So, yeah, the rating system is broken and doesn't protect youngsters from .
Funny how I think the exact opposite.
If you think 16-year-old teenagers cannot handle the F word, you should probably go out and see for yourself how they actually speak. Let alone practice it (In North America, for males, the average age of first intercourse is 16.6, compared to age 17.4 for females).
Uh...news flash, if I'm an underaged kid with unsupervised access to the internet, I'm not wasting my time with some lame R rated trailer. Porn people...it's all over the place. You're complaining about a blind bouncer at one strip club when there are 5 million other clubs on the same block without any bouncer at all. Who cares? If you are all that worried about it, don't let your kid on that block, or at least hold his hand and walk with him.
The MPAA is just trying to CYA so they don't get owned in court like they dish out to evil movie downloaders on a daily basis.
I would be much more concerned about my privacy if they had access to a government database and were able to use it to validate my personal information.
Age verification is a major pain, which several companies are dealing with due to COPPA legislation in the US. Ironically, all you oftentimes need is a credit card (not a debit card) to "prove" that you're an adult. Like it's not hard to sneak that out of mom's purse...
The fundamental question here is if we want a society based on inherent trust or inherent distrust. Personally, I think we have to adapt the former stance, because the latter stance leads to a totalitarian outlook. Everybody would be labeled, everything would be centrally controlled, freedoms would be based on authorization (or revoked completely), and so on. Not the 1984 I'd like to live in...
"people that live outside the US are shut out... unless they know a random US zip code."
Even in the UK we were subjected to Beverley Hills *90210*, so I've never been short of a zip code.
@Ben: "Ironically, all you oftentimes need is a credit card (not a debit card) to "prove" that you're an adult. Like it's not hard to sneak that out of mom's purse..."
And like all adults have a credit card. I was trying to download imov messenger for my tmobile phone in the UK, but it was blocked as being 'adult content' (don't ask me why, but that's another issue). I couldn't remove the adult content block over the phone, since I didn't have a credit card - had to go into a physical shop with my passport to prove I was over 18.
(And not all adults have driving licences, or passports, either).
«latter stance leads to a totalitarian outlook. Everybody would be labeled, everything would be centrally controlled, freedoms would be based on authorization (or revoked completely), and so on. Not the 1984 I'd like to live in...»
I think you are already a good way down that road in the U.S.A.
Its Newspeak, v2007. They are interested in "protecting children" the same way that Microsoft wants to make a "secure PC" - secure to Microsoft means that Microsoft makes a profit on everything you run, install or even think about on your PC even if it means you have to pay over and over for different copies of the same movie, still cant get them to run and they care not a whit that there are 729 trojans, spyware and malware on said "secure PC" beaming your private information to every corner of the world while deleting your copies of it.
Basically when someone publicly says something is to benefit "Families" or "Children" it means it is BS and they have to camouflage it to get people to agree with it. Very similar to "Patriot Act" - if you have to call a bill something cute/motivational to get people to sign on to it, then its probably not good law.
It seems kind of besides the point to subject this sort of "authentication" feature to a security analysis.
The only security it's providing is against liability. It only needs to meet the extremely forgiving threshold of "due diligence". This threshold is set by the studio lawyers to the level they judge necessary to protect themselves from liability lawsuits, and no higher.
Since the studios can presumably afford adequate legal talent, I feel sure that that threshold is set correctly for its intended purpose. Demands for actual effective age screening are off-spec.
El Tesoro is at least aware that the age restricion for booze is not 21 all around the world. Nice, just enter your DOB your desired country and you can see if you are allowed to drink destilled alcohol there. ---> oops, just see that it does fail in the case of Denmark
The author of the article sounds no better than the MPAA stooge who wants to "protect children". But that's not the point I wanted to make ...
All these "protections" are fundamentally broken for similar reasons DRM is broken. Also, once *anyone* gains access to a trailer, it can be uploaded to YouTube (or similar) where a very similar kind of honor system "prevents" kids from viewing inappropriate material.
Abstinence is the answer. Don't make R-rated trailers.
My ponit isn't about having dictated to me what is or is not "appropriate" content in movies. It also isn't whether or not my kid can "handle the F word". I'm not naive, I know it's a staple of young people's vocabularies in some areas. It's sometimes a staple of mine.
No, my point is that a guideline has been established that is supposed to, with a simple label, help me determine whether a movie is something I *want* my child to see. And the "LSV" tags on top of those labels are (in the US anyway) so loosely defined as to not be useful in knowing what material I might find objectionable.
And I'm not about to screen every movie my kid wants to go see. The onus is on parents to help manage their childrens' life experience while those children are young. Guidelines such as the rating system have been established to help parents, but when those guidelines are too ambiguous they don't work.
MPAA is simply trying to find some way to get people into the theater to see rather expensive, if crappy, remakes and sequels. "Sex sells" has always worked in the past. Children aren't even an afterthought and certainly not worth all of the fuss.
This doesn't confirm you are an old person, only that you know one.
Works good. Thank you Wikipedia. Thank goodness we teach kids to look up facts online.
those little chanchos could do some nasty google searches without any age verification too - "porn", "satanism", "c4"... :)
the problem space for kids on the net is a little bigger than this
The parents are responsible for selecting what their children should see; not the State, not the MPAA. To do this, they need to be responsible in participating with the children's lives enough to know what their children are experiencing.
It is society's job to protect its citizens, especially its most vulnerable citizens, only up to a point. It even seems reasonable to agree upon ways to communicate a movie is worthless to a specific group. The problem is that lots of things make movies worthless, depending on the group. The things that make a movie worthless could include mindless violence, poorly-veiled religious drivel, skewed and unrealistic emotional responses, artificially-inserted and over-glorified sexuality or poor role models portrayed as heroes through a single sensationalized act. But no ratings group or age verification will ever be able to speak to all the things that could make a specific movie harmful to a child, or in conflict with the parents' values. Only parents can really accomplish this.
Parents, society is not your babysitter. The MPAA is not your portable conscience. Selecting what your children see based on a letter rating from a group you know little about is negligent. Participate. Be a parent. And if you can't be a parent then freakin' don't reproduce and blame others for the results.
You seem to merely link to a ridiculous site who uses nothing more than anecdotal evidence and straw men to support opinions.
While I think many times your critical thinking is worthy, this is merely attacking what is an empty shell of an argument from a blog about one case.
Thats about accurate. However, when I was 10 I bought tickets for rated R movies. No one even flinched. However I have been carded buying video games rated T for teen ( last time I was 26). I don't know if thats a win for age verification, or just another pointer to my youthful looks.
This is like making fun of the security of a liquor cabinet in a crackhouse.
Actually, this honor system is a completely appropriate security control to mitigate the risk that the MPAA members face. There is no risk per se in allowing people under 17 to view R rated trailers, as the ratings are entirely voluntary. In fact, there is a financial incentive to allow kids to see them, as it markets the movie to a key demographic. The risk is only the risk of bad PR, which they believe they've mitigated sufficiently.
Further, they've provided themselves a strong defense against any possible liability since any kid who puts in false information to get to the trailer is acting fraudulently.
I agree, Dan. Also the risk to a child seeing an inappropriate trailer is pretty low. It's at worse going to give them nightmares, and at best get them to ask questions about what they saw. The age verification is there because most young kids have a "don't be naughty" complex instilled by adults (up till about age 10). It's protecting them from accidentally seeing something icky, it also protects us from seeing it at work, or while we're eating. If a kid wants to bypass the age restriction and watch a trailer it's not going to hurt anyone. Especially if they're only a few years under 17.
Since they ask for a zip-code to verify age, it is obvious that this is just an excuse to get marketing info. It has nothing to do with security, or protecting kids.
Even Bruce seems to have fallen for the excuse, since he criticized the efficacy of the _security_ system, without commenting on what is really going on.
@ Ben Liddicott: "I am not sure what you are saying is ridiculous. Using an honour system for age verification in a totally unimportant context, or objecting to using an honour system for it?"
I think that he's saying it's ridiculous that so many people blame others rather than taking responsibility. Don't want your kids watching that stuff? Put the computer in an open area (living room, say), so that you can keep an eye on them.
Know their friends, and know their friends parents so that you have some decent odds that the kid will not just sneak over to Bobby's house to look at contraband movies.
Go to the library with your child rather than letting them run over unaccompanied to view the stuff on library computers.
And then realize that as they get older, you will have to let them go, and you cannot protect them from everything, and that they will see an occasional nipple. It's called growing up.
Sometimes (many times) when kids are growing up they will make foolish decisions. Most times the child will learn from this mistake (and in ways that you could not teach). Sometimes the results will be tragic. And most of the time, the results (both benign and tragic) are unavoidable.
The alternative is to promulgate ever more far-reaching and draconian rules in an effort to make every child "safe".
Homeland Security -- are you listening?
Well so far people disagree over what Bruce means. Perhaps he will weigh in to clear it up.
Do you mean it is ridiculous to use the honour system to control access to movie trailers?
Or do you mean it is ridiculous to moan about it?
Here's a stronger solution to a rather related problem: how do you monitor a student taking an online exam: you lock their computer (...); install a 360° camera and microphone. Software claims to do the raw sifting and highlight suspicious moments for later human review.
"And like all adults have a credit card. I was trying to download imov messenger for my tmobile phone in the UK, but it was blocked as being 'adult content' (don't ask me why, but that's another issue). I couldn't remove the adult content block over the phone, since I didn't have a credit card - had to go into a physical shop with my passport to prove I was over 18."
Even if you had a credit card you probably shouldn't be using it in such a way in the first place. Credit cards were intended for making financial transactions rather than verifying people's ages. It wouldn't be that suprising if trying to use them in such a way violates both the card holder's and the "merchant's" agreements.
That's before even addressing the risk of fraudulant charges being made against the card...
It has nothing to do with protecting children, it has everything to do with complying with the law. Children *who don't want to see* violent movie trailers can opt out. It's completely reasonable and does what it's supposed to do.
Protecting the children: I'm much more worried about religious content than porn. Really - you want to avoid a fixation on porn, but a religious fixation is much more dangerous.
I would ban all religious material to those under 21. It's much more likely to lead them to strapping on a bomb, or giving all their (my) cash away, or moving into some cult where their cut-off from their community. At the end of the day, I'd rather they spend a Saturday night watching porn than a Sunday morning getting their heads filled with fairies.
But no one ever puts age restrictions on religious nonsense, or even warnings. Use the F-word - it frightens me less than the X-word.
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