The Policy Download

The weekly summary of tech policy and politics
Issue 44 / 3 September 2021
 Feature story 

A push for age verification (link - £)

The Times carried a piece that had the Chairs of both the Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee and the DCMS Select Committee, alongside the Shadow DCMS Secretary of State and the Children's Commissioner, calling for tougher age verification measures online.

Long time readers of this newsletter will know that I'm a cynic, but it blows my mind that the piece does not make more of the fact that DCMS tried to introduce age verification for *actual online pornography* and failed because it was too hard. 18 year olds can have a credit card which can be used as a proxy measure... what do 13 year olds have? 

This is classic "just fix it" from people who don't seem to have spent any time actually thinking about what fixing it would look like and what it would require. It's bad news for online service providers, but great news if you are planning to set up an age verification business.  
 Other stories this week 

Age Appropriate Design Code comes into force

The long awaited Age Appropriate Design Code came into force this week. Its proponents say it is a major step forward for children online. Maybe. If it is that, it is also a complete shambles in terms of preparing and communicating with businesses and enforcement. 

Other options for ARM (link - £)

SoftBank are reportedly thinking about alternative exits for Arm as the likelihood of the Nvidia acquisition narrows. As I said last week, it'll be interesting to see what, if anything, the UK Government does to intervene on ownership outside of competition. 

Ireland's data regulator gets tough (link)

Ireland's Data Protection Commission has fined WhatsApp $225m under GDPR for a breach. WhatsApp will of course appeal. Ouch. 

Apple makes app store concession (link)

Following challenges in Japan and South Korea, Apple has made significant concessions in its App Store policies. Specifically, it will let "reader apps" point to subscription and payment outside of Apple's ecosystem. This will make Spotify et al happy, but Epic will fight on. 

SEC continues to push on crypto (link)

The Chair of the USA's Securities and Exchange Commission has made another swipe at crypto, saying it needs to be part of a central public policy framework to have relevance over the next decade. Whatever the merit of the argument, I think you'll struggle to convince a group of people whose stated interest is decentralisation that they need central government rules...
 Consultations to note 

Digital identity and attributes consultation: DCMS (link) - opened 19/07/21, closing 13/09/21.

Draft Online Safety Bill: Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee (link) - opened 29/07/21, closing 16/09/21.

UK Prospectus Regime: HM Treasury (link) - opened 01/07/21, closing 24/09/21. 

A new pro-competition regime for digital markets: DCMS (link) - opened 20/07/21, closing 01/10/21.

Draft international data transfer agreement: Information Commissioner's Office (link) - opened 11/09/21, closing 07/10/21. 

Reporting rules for digital platforms: HMRC (link) - opened 30/07/21, closing 22/10/21. 

Audience protection standards on Video-on-Demand Services: DCMS (link) - opened 31/08/21, closing 26/10/21. 

Enterprise Management Incentives: HM Treasury (link) - opened 03/03/21.
 Next week in Parliament 

Parliament is back next week! 

On Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs Committee will take evidence on tech and the future of UK foreign policy. The Justice and Home Affairs Committee will take evidence on new technologies and the application of law

On Wednesday the Home Affairs Committee will take evidence on online harms

On Thursday the Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill will take oral evidence. 
What I've been reading and listening to

Reeves Wiedeman: Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork

Mike Isaac: Super Pumped
 My recent work 
Taso Advisory is hiring

We're hiring again at Taso Advisory. We're looking for someone to join the team in a senior role. They'll have a real expertise in and passion for tech policy. They'll have the chance to participate in and help to shape our rapid growth. Is that you? Or do you know someone? More details are here

The Age Appropriate Design Code

I spoke to Wired UK about the Age Appropriate Design Code and how it is definitely not the "big tech brought to heel" that people think it is. Read the article here.

The Online Safety Bill

At Taso Advisory we're working on responses to the two Parliamentary inquiries looking at the draft Online Safety Bill. We're doing this for some of the UK's most exciting startups and scaleups, and also for major listed businesses. This legislation will change the rules of the internet. If you need to respond, get in touch.

Media, tech and entertainment event

I'm looking forward to speaking at a Bird & Bird event on 28 September. It's in person! If listening to me speak doesn't put you off, you can sign up here.

If you'd like a conversation about how either Taso Advisory or Greenstone Research can support you, please just get in touch. 
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Ben Greenstone is the author of The Policy Download.

Ben is the managing director of Taso Advisory, a public policy consultancy, and the director of Greenstone Research, a subscription policy research service. Before this, Ben was an adviser to UK government ministers, including two ministers with responsibility for digital and the creative industries.

You can get in touch with Ben at: or

Ben tweets at @ben_greenstone.
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