Pornhub prepares to block five more states instead of verifying IDs

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Pornhub will soon be blocked in five more states as the adult site continues to fight what it sees as privacy-violating age verification laws that require Internet users to provide identification to access pornography.

On July 1, according to a blog post on the adult site announcing the impending block, Pornhub visitors in Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska will be “greeted by a video featuring “adult entertainer Cherie Deville” , who explains why “I had to make the difficult decision to block their access to Pornhub.”

Pornhub explained that, like blocks in Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Virginia, Montana, North Carolina and Mississippi, the site is refusing to comply with age verification laws that will soon go into effect in this new group of states. that supposedly put users at “substantial risk” of identity theft, phishing and other harm.

Age verification laws that require adult site visitors to submit “often private information to adult sites on the Internet” normalize the unnecessary disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII), Pornhub argued, warning that “this is not a privacy policy by design”. getting closer.”

Pornhub is not outright opposed to age verification, but advocates for laws requiring device-based age verification, allowing users to access adult sites after authenticating their identity on their devices. That is “the best and most effective solution to protect both minors and adults,” Pornhub argued, because the age verification technology is proven and less PII would be shared.

“Users would only be verified once, through their operating system, not on every age-restricted site,” Pornhub’s blog said, stating that “this dramatically reduces privacy risks and creates a very simple process that users regulators must apply.

A spokesperson for Pornhub owner Aylo told Ars that “unfortunately, the way many jurisdictions around the world have chosen to implement age verification is ineffective, messy and dangerous.”

“Any regulation that requires hundreds of thousands of adult sites to collect significant amounts of highly sensitive personal information is putting user security at risk,” Aylo’s spokesperson told Ars. “Furthermore, as experience has shown, unless properly enforced, users will simply access non-compliant sites or find other methods to evade these laws.

Age verification laws are harmful, says Pornhub

Pornhub’s big complaint with current age verification laws is that these laws are difficult to enforce and seem to make visiting an adult site riskier than ever.

“Since age verification software requires users to hand over extremely sensitive information, it opens the door to the risk of data breaches,” Pornhub’s blog said. “Whether their intentions are good or not, governments have historically struggled to protect this data. It also creates an opportunity for criminals to exploit and extort people through phishing attempts or spoofing. [age verification] processes, an unfortunate and all too common practice.

In recent years, the risk of identity or PII theft has been well documented on both larger niche adult sites and smaller sites.

Hundreds of millions of people were affected by major breaches that exposed PII shared with popular adult sites like Adult Friend Finder and Brazzers in 2016, while likely tens of thousands of users were hacked on eight poorly secured adult sites in 2018. Free and niche sites have also been vulnerable to attacks, including millions collectively exposed through breaches of fetish porn site Luscious in 2019 and MyFreeCams in 2021.

And those are just the big violations that make headlines. In 2019, Kaspersky Lab reported that malware targeting online porn account credentials more than doubled in 2018, and researchers who analyzed 22,484 porn websites estimated that 93 percent were leaking user data to a third.

That’s why Pornhub argues that as states have passed age verification laws requiring ID, they have “introduced harm” by redirecting visitors to adult sites that have fewer privacy protections and worse security, allegedly exposing users to more threats.

As an example, Pornhub reported, traffic to Pornhub in Louisiana “declined by approximately 80 percent” after the age verification law was passed. This supposedly demonstrated not only how few users were willing to show identification to access their popular platform, but also how “very easily” users could simply move to “pirate, illegal or other non-compliant sites that “They don’t ask visitors to verify their age.”

Pornhub has continued to argue that states that pass laws like Louisiana’s cannot effectively enforce the laws and are simply forcing users to make riskier decisions when accessing pornography.

“Louisiana’s law and other copycat laws at the state level have no regulator, only civil liability, resulting in a flawed enforcement regime, effectively making it an option for platform operators to comply,” the blog said. from Pornhub. As one of the world’s most popular adult platforms, Pornhub would almost certainly be subject to law enforcement if it fails to comply, while smaller adult sites, perhaps plagued by security risks and without incentives to verify identifications, would not be regulated, it is thought.

Aylo’s spokesperson shared Similarweb data from 2023 with Ars, showing that sites that comply with age verification laws in Virginia, including Pornhub and xHamster, lost substantial traffic, while seven sites that did not comply saw a sharp increase in traffic. Similar trends were seen in Google trends data in Utah and Mississippi, while market shares appeared to largely hold up in California, a state that still does not verify IDs to access adult sites.

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