5 Reasons Why The UK Porn Pass Law Is a Full-Frontal Disaster

In July, the UK will finally roll out its much-debated porn pass system. It was originally suggested that the age checks would be rolled out at the beginning of April, a deadline that has since passed. Now the government has confirmed that the mandatory age verification checks will come into force on July 15, 2019. 

The new age-verification system will force all British residents to prove they are over the age of 18, before accessing online pornography including RedTube, PornHub and a whole host of other adult sites.

These days the majority of mainstream porn websites already ask for visitors to click a button that confirms they are over 18, but little prevents anyone underage from clicking through this unchecked.

Although everyone agrees that adult content should be kept out of reach of children, the new porn pass system is highly flawed. In fact, most privacy advocates agree that the porn pass system is a violation of human rights.

1) Parents Already Have Control

Firstly, it is important to understand that all newly setup UK internet accounts come with a default child lock. This means that pornographic websites are automatically unavailable to minors; unless their parental guardians change those settings.

If parents wish to unblock pornography or other age-restricted website services for their own consumption, they must contact their ISP or change the settings from within their account. Crucially at this point, they can then set up child locks on their internet settings that allow them to password protect pornography to stop their children accessing the content.

With such a system already in place, there is little point in further complicated legislation.

2) People Can Get Around It With a VPN

You'd think that before rolling out a system like this, the UK government might check whether it would even work?

The problem is, The UK is the only place that has decided to impose the porn pass system. As a result, anybody will easily be able to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to pretend to be outside of the UK - in the Netherlands, or France, for example. This will allow them to access porn without registering for a porn pass.

In much the same way UK VPN users, give them access to the US Netflix catalogue, they will simply set their digital location to elsewhere and continue to access porn, in much the same way as before.

What’s more, because young people are often more tech-literate - it seems likely that they will be among the first to bypass UK porn blocks altogether. This means that the very teenagers the porn block is meant to protect from age-inappropriate content will probably be the first to work out how to access it.

3) It Means Involving Third Parties In Your Private Life

Whatever you choose to watch online, when it comes to online privacy, three is a crowd. Although the porn pass is the brainchild of the UK Government, its implementation will actually be carried out by independent third parties - such as the firm MindGeek. This seems far from ideal because MindGeek is the owner of the world's largest pornography websites, including PornHub, YouPorn, and RedTube. 

The AgeID system designed by MindGeek is, as you would expect, touted to be secure. James Clark, Director of Communications at AgeID told ProPrivacy.com:

"When a user registers an AgeID account using an email address and password, both are protected by a salted, one-way hash. This means that at no point does AgeID have a database of email addresses. AgeID does not know the identity or date of birth of its users, all it knows is whether a hashed account is over 18 or not. AgeID has been designed with privacy and security at its core, so much so that we believe we provide the most robust solution available.

"We look forward to being scrutinised by the BBFC and the auditors of their voluntary certification scheme. We expect a robust penetration test to be part of that process. We also require all our third-party age verification providers to submit to the voluntary scheme, ensuring end-to-end security."

Despite this reassurance, registering as a porn user with MindGeek is still not something we'd expect the average consumer to be comfortable with.  

4) It's a Massive Hack Risk

All databases are at risk of being hacked by cybercriminals. If penetrated, the fact that people watch porn could be leaked online, and it wouldn't be the first time. 

In 2012, the email addresses and passwords of more than a million users of MindGeek's YouPorn sex chat site were publicly leaked, and, in 2016, the account details of 80,000 paying users on their Brazzers site were exposed. 

For the time being the security of the AgeID platform has not been verified, and with such a poor track record - and the possibility of hacking always a risk - staying away from a porn pass seems like the best bet. 

The fallout of porn viewing being made public, especially for well-known individuals or those with high powered, or public-facing jobs, could result in a substantial reputation loss.

5) It Pushes People Towards The Deep Web

Experts believe that the porn pass will encourage many, including adolescents to begin searching for porn in unregulated spaces. This could lead them to creepy subreddits, illegal websites full of malware, ransomware, and other viruses - or even more worrying, the dark web.

In fact, the UK Government's own impact assessment group has warned that encouraging viewers to move into dark web territory to seek out pornography, increases the chances of exposing them to illegal commodities such as stolen credit cards and drugs.

Mainstream pornography, while not to everyone's taste, and definitely not appropriate for under 18's is often a more regulated industry than people realise. There are various safeguards in place to protect both performers and consumers, however, the type of content contained on the dark web will have gone through no such checks, meaning there is little to prevent consumers stumbling across, violent or illegal content, including child pornography.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 4+ years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, Barrons, the Scottish Herald, ThreatPost, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated number 1 VPN authority by Agilience.com.

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