Law,  Porn,  Technology

Stop the Blue Passport Madness

British adults who wish to watch blue movies online may be forced to register their real name and age with a government-approved database in order to obtain a ‘passport’ to the presumed pleasure of previewing porn in private on the Internet, reports The Mirror.

The measure is designed, apparently, to prevent children from accessing adult porn sites. One would have thought the priority would be the reverse, but these are curious times.

Regardless, the measure is ill-thought out and will fail.

Speaking to Metro, the CEO of one of the ‘passport’ providers, AgeID, explained:

From April (when the new system is widely expected to launch), attempting to reach Pornhub or Youporn from a UK device will bring up a non-pornographic ‘landing page’ instead, says James Clark, AgeID spokesperson. Clark says, ‘When a user first visits a site protected by AgeID, a landing page will appear with a prompt for the user to verify their age before they can access the site. Each website will create their own non-pornographic landing page for this purpose.’

The first time they visit, users will have to create an AgeID account by verifying their ID, with an email and password. Clark says, ‘First, a user can register an AgeID account using an email address and password. The user verifies their email address and then chooses an age verification option from our list of 3rd party providers, using options such as Mobile SMS, Credit Card, Passport, or Driving Licence. ‘The second option is to purchase a PortesCard or voucher from a retail outlet. Using this method, a customer does not need to register an email address, and can simply access the site using the Portes app.’

There is no guarantee that all sites will use the same age verification vendor, so pleasure-seekers may have to acquire several different passports.

It should be obvious that unless they have it in mind to ban VPNs in the UK, the measure will have no teeth. If anything it will create only an incentive for hacking and credit card fraud as users of porn sites seek out ways to preserve their anonymity. It’ll drive some towards illegal sites and sites promising ‘cracks’, exposing more to viruses and malware.

And they are not unreasonable in their desire to do this: Almost all big databases are eventually hacked. Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, LinkedIn – even the NHS – have all been hacked and users’ details released into the wild. Anything requiring a large amount of user-data to be stored is a target for hackers. Last year the popular fitness phone app MyFitnessPal was hacked, losing millions of user information to organised criminals. Something a salacious as a database of porn users will be a prime target, containing as it surely will, the names of celebrities, politicians and business leaders – assuming they comply with the law like everyone else.

AgeID claim that the user-data is safe and “protected by a salted, one-way hash”. Who can trust this after the astonishing data-breaches at the big tech companies above who surely also thought their security was as robust as possible?

Users might also quite reasonably fear being held accountable for content uploaded by other parties in unregulated countries.

Who believes for a second the registered data won’t be used for tracking user proclivities – even if supposedly anonymously – for the purposes of marketing? Haven’t users of social media and online shopping been betrayed before?

If you’re using your credit card to purchase an age-confirming passport, how long before this sort of information ends up on credit reports? What domestic strife, one imagines, might be caused when a spouse discovers the reason they’ve been turned down for credit is because the provider red-flagged their other half’s porn habit.

Now some might be thinking “Porn: Yuck! Anything that discourages its use will be a victory for decency, feminism, etc.”. But consider that pornography has been around for millennia. Scholars are finding example of it it in Ancient Rome. It is going nowhere.

Is there even a need for this other than the usual virtue-signalling of politicians wishing to be seen to be ‘doing something’. By all accounts, young people seem to be having less sex than ever before.  Surely this is a good thing and can only lead to a drop in the number of STDs and unwanted pregnancies? Who’s to say the easy availability of porn isn’t the driver of this social good. Some say yes, some say no, but has anyone behind this new measure even asked the question?

What is certain is that come April, a lot of frustrated language will be turning the air blue.