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‘Porn block’ reversal sees UK government sued for millions

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Companies building age verification tools for pornography websites are seeking over £3 million in damages after the UK government scrapped its controversial ‘porn block’.

The companies involved in the lawsuit - AgeChecked, VeriMe, AVYourself and AVSecure - dispute the legality of aborting the initiative, which would have required websites featuring explicit content to verify the age of all users.

The scheme was originally designed to ensure pornography was not accessed by users under the age of 18. But the decision to implement age verification systems was reversed after the government was made aware of a litany of workarounds, such as VPN software or social media sites exempt from the block.

The porn block was first announced in 2015 and was slated to come into effect in 2018, but was repeatedly delayed as the government attempted to navigate complications regarding its implementation. 

Security concerns

Concerns about data privacy also played a significant role in the UK government’s decision to pull the proposed scheme. To verify their identity, users would have had to provide forms of ID that could have been vulnerable in the event of a data breach.

The Open Rights Group, a UK organisation dedicated to preserving digital rights, warned that building what would effectively amount to a database of erotic preferences is a recipe for disaster.

“The adult industry has a terrible record on data security. We’re being asked to hope they don’t repeat the many, many times they have lost personal data. Age verification must not be pushed forward until there is compulsory privacy regulation put in place,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

Age verification companies say data privacy concerns are not merited, and that the sector follows data privacy and security standards to the letter.

Alastair Graham, CEO and founder of AgeChecked, says his company “provides anonymous age verification, and does not retain any personal data.”

Via BBC