The Government Might Have Newsagents Sell 'Porn Passes' to Let People Access Porn Online

By Tom Pritchard on at

Sometime in the near future, supposedly before the end of the year, the government will force porn websites to add age verification gates and deny access to anyone from within the UK unless they can prove they're over the age of 18. We know a lot more about these plans than we did a few months ago, there are still some holes and problems - particular with regard to the data collected by the competing age verification systems that are going to be in play. Now there seems to be another system in play: purchasing a dedicated 'porn pass' from a local newsagent.

According to The Telegraph the government is planning to let people have a more anonymous solution to accessing their adult material, which involves going down to the local newsagent and purchasing an age card bundled with 16-digit code that will let them access online porn without handing over any sensitive data. The card will supposedly cost around £10, and will apparently also let people buy age restricted goods like alcohol and knives. Both are products that may end up being locked behind similar online age gates, if the whole porn thing works out.

The idea behind the newsagent thing is that you can purchase a card with the age-verifying code without having to hand over your data, because you can show your proof of age to the person behind the counter and see that they're not keeping a note of anything to use at a later date. Though this solution isn't without its problems.

For starters it doesn't discount the fact that there are newsagents that have been willing to sell age-restricted products, notably alcohol and cigarettes, to people under the age of 18. Which is why Trading Standards and police have been known to carry out undercover operations to catch offenders in the act. There's no reason to think some dodgy newsagents wouldn't also sell access cards to under 18s if they were so inclined. It also means that people wanting to get round the digital checks will have to go to a nearby shop and ask the elderly man behind the counter for a product that's clearly designed for accessing porn. It'll be awkward, and likely one of the reasons why people chose to consume their x-rated content online rather than buying top-shelf content from the shops.

Like the age verification in general, this is also a far from perfect system. For starters it doesn't prevent people buying age card and passing them onto under 18s, as can have with booze and the like, nor does it stop kids and teenagers pinching a card from one of their parents and memorising the code to use at a later date. Then again, as I was told, the government is well aware of the many ways around geoblocking that people will take advantage of.

The official line is, after all, to prevent children from accidentally coming across porn before they're ready for it, and while there are bound to be people in government who are using the old "won't someone please think of the children?!" line as ammo in some sort of anti-porn-based moral crusade, you have to remember that there is a common trope in comedy that porn is so easy to find even the most innocent and specific of searches can yield XXX-rated results.

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But while it has its issues, in theory this idea will prevent any sort of tracking and sensitive data collection that may eventually leak. Even though there are laws to try and scare companies against risking it for their own gain. The government is hell bent on adding age gates to the internet, and while there will still be plenty of people willing to complain about the whole situation, this feels like somewhat of a compromise for any privacy-minded people who like to look at naked people doing adult activities on the internet. Although it doesn't stop any of the existing tracking we have to suffer through, seeing as how the Snooper's Charter is sort of in effect. [The Telegraph]