UK Porn Block Could be a Ticking ‘Privacy Timebomb’

UK Porn Block

A privacy rights watchdog has raised concerns over the safety of UK citizens’ data privacy once porn verification standards are introduced next month. 

With less than a month until the launch of controversial age verification checks for online pornography, a privacy rights watchdog has warned that proposed safeguards could be a ‘privacy timebomb’.

A new report from the Open Rights group claims that the BBFC’s Age-verification Certificate Standard provides little safety assurance to the 20 million adults believed to watch porn in the UK.

Identity checks aimed at preventing under-18s from visiting porn websites will require any commercial provider of adult content to implement “robust” verification processes to confirm they are adults. Research published by the watchdog, however, suggests that data protection for consumers is “vague, imprecise and largely a ‘tick box’ exercise.”

Jim Killock, Executive Director at ORG, said that due to the type of data being processed, higher standards of protection must be implemented.

“On July 15th, millions of internet users in the UK will have to make a decision about which age verification providers they trust with data about their personal pornography habits and preferences,” he said. “Due to the sensitive nature of age verification data, there needs to be a higher standard of protection than the baseline which is offered by data protection legislation.”

Although the BBFC’s standard is supposed to deliver this, Killock added, it is ultimately a voluntary standard which offers “little information about the level of data protection being offered.”

It also provides no means of redress, he insisted, if companies fail to live up to it. Due to these basic failures, the standard is rendered “pointless, misleading and potentially dangerous as advice to consumers seeking safe products.”

Since the announcement of the age verification scheme, ORG said the government has also failed to adequately inform porn users across the country over the incoming changes. A lack of awareness among the public could pose dangers further down the line.

A recent YouGov poll revealed that nearly three-quarters (74%) of the British public are unaware that age verification is even being introduced.

“Age verification will affect millions of people in the UK, yet the Government has done little to advertise this change, nor offered advice to consumers about what they need to do to keep their sensitive data safe,” Killock said.

The UK Government says that the measures are a necessary step to prevent children from accessing adult content online. However, concerns have been raised that it may push young people and adults to use alternative means of access.

The scheme only applies to companies that provide porn content on a commercial basis – this means that people will still be able to access pornography on free sites, through file sharing, or on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Additionally, a recent impact assessment from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) suggested the scheme could put people at a greater risk of fraud or blackmail. Meanwhile, it may also push adults towards ToR, where they could be exposed to illegal activities or more extreme material.”

When the date for identity checks was revealed in April, the number of online searches for VPNs (virtual private networks) more than tripled in the hours following the announcement.



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