How the UK Porn Block could give one company an unfair advantage

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The UK's Porn Block will go into effect on July 15th at which time users will have to verify their age when viewing adult content online.

There will be several ways for users to verify their age online such as by submitting official government IDs, their credit card information or even by going into a physical store and presenting their identification and a fee in exchange for a pass.

Rather than creating a new regulatory body within the government, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport outsourced the task to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). However, the BBFC is not creating or even endorsing a single age verification system as the organization instead laid out guidelines for external age verification services run by private firms.

Under the Porn Block, adult sites would be required to install such a system under threat of being banned by major internet service providers. While this means less work for the BBFC, it also raises concerns over how the data needed to verify user's identities will be protected under GDPR.

Age verification services

According to the BBFC, the organization will soon publish a list of recommended age verification services and existing solutions such as AgeChecked, which is used by gambling sites and e-cigarette retailers, and AgePass, which stores data on a private blockchain, will likely be included. One service in particular though will start with a big advantage over its competition.

AgeID provides a single sign-on solution where users can verify once and then login to one of the thousands of sites that will support the service when the UK's Porn Block launches in July. The reason why the service already has such large support is because its parent company, MindGeek is an adult entertainment industry giant whose holdings include Pornhub, Redtube, YouPorn and dozens of other sites.

MindGeek took an early interest in the UK's Porn Block from its onset and the Open Rights Group even obtained communications between the company and regulators before the law was passed.

In addition to having the necessary resources to develop and lobby for its tool, the company has the advantage of being able to roll out AgeID instantly on the most popular adult sites in the world. This could give users the impression of a single sign-on for adult sites in Britain similar to how they use their Google or Facebook accounts to sign on to other services.

Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock explained how the UK government had inadvertently given MindGeek a huge advantage over its competition, saying:

“In the name of child protection, the government has given a massive leg up to an enormous pornography company to have a monopoly on age verification in the U.K. That’s quite a surprising outcome.”

Via The New York Times

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