Stupid British Laws Mean Pornhub Will Start Demanding Your Name and Address From April

By Tom Pritchard on at

Thanks to those buffoons in parliament and their aversion to any sort of online nakedness, April is going to be a fun month for wankers across the UK. And that means in about two months time you'll need to make an account before you can watch stuff on Pornhub, as well as handing over a bunch of personal information.

It's not Pornhub specifically asking for this information, but rather its parent company MindGeek that also owns similar sites like RedTube, YouPorn, and a bunch premium porn networks you're less likely to be spending time on. MindGeek also owns an age verification service called AgeID, and because the government is demanding any and all porn sites verify users are over the age of 18 you'll have to register and hand over your name, address, date and place birth, email address, and mobile phone number.

This is all thanks to the Digital Economy Act (2018) which is instituting a number of draconian rules and putting the BBFC in charge of this sort of thing. Sites that refuse to verify user ages will be fined up to £250,000, with the verification systems themselves being controlled by third party companies - like MindGeek. AgeID itself won't be the only system available, it looks like it will be one of the most commonly used.

Privacy advocates aren't too impressed, particularly since AgeID will capacity to track users' browsing and search histories. Jim Killock, executive director of the privacy group 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."

The amount of information being held has led some to predict the possibility of an Ashley Madison-style breach. MindGeek says otherwise, with a spokesperson saying:

"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. This is why we where do not store any personal data entered during the age-verification process.

Due to the encrypted nature of AgeID’s login credentials, such data cannot be exposed in the unlikely event of a hack."

Excuse me for having doubts. A hack isn't unlikely for starters, especially with the wealth of information that's going to be stored in there, and no system is completely secure. If there are any backdoors or exploits in the system, hackers will find them, potentially exposing a Pandora's box-worth of very personal data.

While MindGeek denied it would be snooping on viewers porn habits when speaking to Sky News, AgeID's privacy policy claims that it may be used "to develop and display content and advertising tailored to your interests on our Website and other sites". It also states: "We also may use these technologies to collect information about your online activities over time and across third-party websites or other online services."

So basically MindGeek has the option of tracking your porn habits and your general non-porn browsing so it can sell you better ads. A lot of you might remember when Facebook did that, even after users opted out, which fell foul of EU law. Add porn into the equation and it makes things that extra bit creepy.

Sky News also points out that the guidelines from the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport don't explicitly forbid this sort of behaviour - only mentioning that it's not good practice. That comes from the same report that admitted age verification could be harmful to smaller ISPs and could increase the risk of fraud. The department apparently refused Sky's request for interview, only releasing the following statement:

"A wide variety of online age verification arrangements currently exist and so we expect that providers of online pornography will be able to choose the appropriate solution to meet their specific needs."

Which is very helpful and has alleviated a lot of my fears. Oh wait no, no it didn't. [Shortlist Sky News]

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