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Pornhub’s ‘AgeID’ system will require punters to hand over their date of birth

PRIVATE BROWSING DESTINATION Pornhub has confirmed that, from April 2018, visitors to its website will need to prove that they’re 18 to partake in their off-the-cuff habit.

The Digital Economy Bill, which has faced much opposition from privacy campaigners and porn watchers alike, will empower the government to order the blocking of porn sites that fail to provide age-verification checks when it comes into force in two month’s time.

The British Board of Film Classification will also able to fine sites without age verification up to £250,000.

This week, MindGeek – which own and operates sites including Youporn, Redtube and social media giant Pornhub – has confirmed that it will soon require users to create a cross-site account before they can watch people doing all sorts of interesting things to each other.

MindGeek’s solution is called ‘AgeID’, and will ask for name, address, telephone number and date of birth. That data is passed on to a third-party regulator-approved service for verification.

One of the biggest problems with that is that MindGeek is the porn industry’s – itself a massive operation – largest company. Over 100 million people visit its various sites every day, and it will have browsing history on all of them.

Any leak would make the Ashley Madison hack look flaccid by comparison.

Pandora Blake, a campaigner for sexual liberties, said of the move last year: “You can imagine how much data that is going to give MindGeek, if they’re going to have stats on what people click on, what porn sites people click on, what they pay for…

“Once you’ve got a MindGeek login, you’re going to be giving them your entire web browsing history, because they’re going to be able to track every time you log in to anything.”

Blake was speaking at a meeting of the Open Rights Group in February 2017. More recently Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said:

“The BBFC will struggle to ensure that Age Verification is safe, secure and anonymous. They are powerless to ensure people’s privacy.

“The major publisher, MindGeek, looks like it will dominate the AV market. We are very worried about their product, AgeID, which could track people’s porn use. The way this product develops is completely out of BBFC’s hands.

“Users will not be able to choose how to access websites. They’ll be at the mercy of porn companies. And the blame lies squarely with Theresa May’s government for pushing incomplete legislation.”

But wait – it’s okay because, according to MindGeek, a hack is “unlikely.” In fact, AgeID “has been built from the ground up with data protection, data minimisation and the principles of privacy by design at its core, while also complying with the GDPR.”

Anyone with experience in the infosec industry knows that a hack is never “unlikely.” In fact, embarrassing personal information like this is more like the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for cyber criminals.

That said, Mindgeek has clarified that the AgeID system – which it will license out to other websites – does not store data used during the verification process. A spokesperson said, “AgeID’s only concern is whether a visitor is age verified.”

Still, you’ll want to keep your personal details next to your tissues next time you go to Redtube – and that’s definitely going to change the way that people access porn. µ

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