Porn site checks will leave us all exposed

The government’s plans to protect children will put adults at risk, warns Barry Collins

I remember the first time we tried it, like it was yesterday. Rumour had it that the old boy who ran Candy Stores wasn't too fussed about ID, so long as you actually paid for his top-shelf mags rather than stealing them. So my mate Taff, the tallest among us and with the faintest of five o'clock shadows creeping across his 14-year-old face, reached up to the top shelf, whipped down a copy of Mayfair and proffered the 3.50 in loose change that we'd pooled together outside.

"Alright, son?" the newsagent asked. "Want to put that back or should I deliver it with your mum's Daily Mirror in the morning?". Taff passed on Mayfair, advanced to Go and none of us set foot inside that shop for the next six months.

If only internet porn sites had Mr Patel guarding them. Instead, they're an open door, the most demanding of which ask you to tick a box to prove you're 18, an obstacle even a five-year-old could clear. Which is why the government plans to force porn sites to introduce compulsory age checks from as soon as next April. Any smutty site not bothering to verify the age of its visitors will be added to a blacklist that ISPs will be forced to block. It all sounds fair and reasonable, until you get to the tricky issue of how visitors prove they're 18, where it falls apart faster than Taff's Mayfair shopping spree.

One gobsmackingly stupid idea is that visitors to porn sites will be forced to enter their credit card details. This is Christmas come early for fraudsters. Those that aren't setting up fake porn sites to steal credit card details will be hacking the 'legitimate' porn sites, attempting to steal their user databases. Because what better means of blackmail is there than an email demanding 100 to keep your spouse or boss from knowing which sites you visit?

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Even if you've never visited such sites, some people will pay up to avoid any potential embarrassment: people such as teachers, social workers and police officers whose careers could be threatened if they are exposed for viewing porn sites, especially at work.Another bright idea is to verify your age via your phone, because your network knows how old you are. So the next time you visit SaucyGirlsWithWhips.com, you'll enter your phone number and receive a code by text, which you enter in the site to proceed.

Not only will this mean thousands of websites have databases of British mobile users waiting to be stolen and blackmailed, but the mobile providers will also have millions of records of Brits' filthy viewing habits, too. How long will it be before BT, Vodafone or O2 are hacked and millions of people are getting text messages demanding payment to keep their dirty little secrets? I'd give it less than six months.

The government may have announced this clampdown with the best of intentions, but the proposals risk making the internet a far more dangerous place, rather than a safer one. Until someone devises a technology that's capable of detecting your true age as stringently as Mr Patel, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

This article originally appeared in Web User. Main image credit: Web User

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