The Government Wants to Issue Every Briton with a Unique ID to Watch Porn

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Today the UK government announced the launch of a new proposal aimed at stopping people under the age of 18 from watching porn. A large part of the movement involves making all porn sites operating in Great Britain request a form of age verification from would be viewers. If they don’t, they’ll be blocked by GCHQ’s newly dreamt up ‘Great British Firewall’. So far, so predictable.

But when an advocacy organisation called the Open Rights Group published an extensive critique of the new initiative, a more sinister story began to emerge. The report noted all the ways that this new system could go dreadfully wrong, citing the creation of a vast database of the country’s porn consumption habits, that could be sorted by income, narrowed down to individual addresses, and used for large-scale leaking and blackmail.

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In response to this critique, the government referred the group to an obscure bit of legislation entitled Draft BSI Security Standard (Draft PAS 1296:2017), a standard apparently designed to prevent under-18s from purchasing knives.

That standard, according to one investigative Twitter user called Alec Muffett (a self described ‘security researcher’ and ‘freelance nuisanc’), calls for “unique identifiers” to be assigned to each user of the system (Muffett later Tweeted the imagined process: “THIS IS YOUR GOV’T PORN-BROWSING ID NUMBER”). More worrying, perhaps, was the revelation that the standard cited various 10-year-old statistics to validate its assumptions, and that it acknowledged that databases of this nature are prone to widespread leaks.

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Since this discovery, the standard itself has been mysteriously removed by the BSI group, who note, “This draft is no longer available to be viewed. The comments that have been made on it have been collected, and will be considered by the committee responsible for the draft.”

As the Open Rights Group points out, the legislation will not halt porn consumption in under 18s one bit. Anyone wishing to browse the banned sites without logging in with Her Majesty first will simply use one of the many proxy services that will allow them to bypass the firewall.

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