Next month’s introduction of age-verification checks for adult websites is set to create “a treasure trove of private information” – including consumers’ sexual preferences – that will make a data breach “inevitable”, according to a leading privacy advocacy group.
The clampdown is included in the Digital Economy Act 2017 and is intended to protect children from accessing explicit material.
It means that anyone wanting to access online porn will be forced to prove they are 18 and over.
Over the weekend, MindGeek, which runs sites including PornHub, YouPorn and RedTube, said its AgeID age verification software would use “third-party age-verification companies” to authenticate the age of those signing in.
It said there were multiple verification methods that could be used – including credit card, mobile SMS, passport and driving licence – but that it was not yet clear which would be compliant with the law.
The Gov.UK Verify employs similar techniques, with the likes of Barclays, Experian, GB Group, Royal Mail and Verizon providing ID check services.
A recent survey by broadband comparison site BroadbandGenie showed that 56% of UK adults would be unwilling to share their personal data to access porn; 62% were not even aware such regulation was looming.
And speaking to the BBC, Open Rights Group legal director Myles Jackman, said that age verification systems raise serious security issues.
He said: “If the age verification process continues in its current fashion, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime treasure trove of private information. If it gets hacked, can British citizens ever trust the government again with their data?”
Jackman said it would drive more people to use virtual private networks (VPNs) – which mask a device’s geographical location to circumvent local restrictions – or the anonymous web browser Tor.
“It is brutally ironic that when the government is trying to break all encryption in order to combat extremism, it is now forcing people to turn towards the dark web,” he said.
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