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O2 Mobile Data age verification, restricted websites, Bango and IMCB

o2 logoFollowing up on a post on CoolSmartPhone about O2 mobile data and accessing age restricted websites, we wanted to just add a little more information to the subject, and highlight some issues with the process.

Currently, when browsing on your phone over the O2 network accessing certain websites will lead you to be redirected to an age verification site run by third party company Bango. By giving them your credit card details they will verify you are over 18 and your O2 account will subsequently be able to access all age restricted websites via the O2 network. This has caused a lot of issues for people who are rightly concerned with fraud, phishing attacks and personal data protection.

Bango is in fact completely legitimate, and partnered with O2 to perform this service for them, and many other providers such as Universal, Paramount and MTV. There has however been a massive failure by O2 to communicate that this browsing restriction was being implemented, and that they would be using Bango to perform the age verification. This goes back a few years to when O2 actually first introduced the service, but for a far narrower scope of “restricted websites”, if you get what I mean. Customers trying to access these websites were presented with the age verification screen, but of course it made much more sense to them, and they did it without issue. Based on this process O2 decided to roll out the restriction to a much wider set of websites, and thinking the public would behave in a similar way didn’t bother telling anyone. On March 3rd they did actually release a blog post with more information on this, but again you had to know where to find it.

The list of affected websites is far wider than you might think. All the main UK mobile operators have agreed to a Code of Practice to protect children in this area, and the list of websites is developed and maintained by the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB). This list restricts access to pornography, alcohol, violence, drugs and gambling websites, however the internet is littered with examples of where this restriction has incorrectly classified sites as age inappropriate. The system isn’t perfect, but you can contact O2 on Twitter or via their forums and they will be able to whitelist and incorrectly flagged website within about 24hours.

Finally, to clarify, you don’t have to use Bango and part with your credit card details. You can walk into any O2 shop and present your photo ID (driving license or passport) and they will lift the restriction for you. Or you can simply call customer services, 61018 from your handset, or visit https://ageverification.o2.co.uk/ (which still requires a credit card but is at least an O2 site).

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