UK Porn Block is 'pointless misleading and potentially dangerous'

Image credit: Shutterstock
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

With just one month until the UK Porn Block comes into effect, a new report has warned that the government is failing to protect the privacy and security of those who view adult content online.

The Open Rights Group has analyzed the BBFC's Age-verification Certificate Standard, which outlines measures for AV providers to demonstrate that they will protect users' data, to reveal that the scheme provides little assurance to the 20m adults that are estimated to watch pornography online in the UK.

Executive Director at the Open Rights Group Jim Killock explained how the standard falls short in terms of data protection, saying:

“On July 15, 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. 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.

“The BBFC’s standard is supposed to deliver this. However, it is a voluntary standard, which offers little information about the level of data protection being offered and provides no means of redress if companies fail to live up to it. Its requirements are vague and a ‘tick box’ exercise. This renders it pointless, misleading and potentially dangerous as advice to consumers seeking safe products.”

Consumer privacy at risk

Pornography companies will have to apply age verification to all UK users beginning on July 15 but according to the Open Rights Group, there has been no government advertising to make the millions of users that view adult content online aware of the scheme.

In fact, a YouGov poll from March showed that 74 percent of the British public were not even aware that age verification is being introduced. In addition to not advertising its existence, the UK government has not offered any advice to consumers regarding what they need to do to keep their sensitive data safe.

Since age verification only applies to commercial providers of adult content, this means that those under 18 will still be able to access pornography on free sites or on social media.

Killock also explained how age verification could put UK citizens at greater risk of cybercrime, saying:

“A DCMS impact assessment outlined that this scheme could put UK citizens at risk of fraud and blackmail, which could have a devastating impact on individuals. We urge the Government to delay age verification until there are proper mechanisms in place to protect privacy."