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The UK cancels its porn block and ID verification scheme

It turns out, the "Porn License" won't be a thing after all.
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The UK’s highly controversial “Porn Block” that would have required UK citizens to hand over private information to verify their identity on a national database, has been scrapped, Reclaim The Net can confirm.

The scheme had already suffered several setbacks after it was delayed multiple times, as well as also facing harsh pushback from privacy advocates and rights groups that objected to the government keeping a database of porn-watchers – as well as keeping track of their identities and porn browsing habits.

The scheme was scheduled to have come into effect on April 17 but was then pushed back further and was then expected to launch on July 15.

Tomorrow, DCMS Secretary (Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport) Jeremy Wright will make the announcement, declaring that the scheme will be shelved indefinitely – suggesting the bureaucracy involved in such a scheme wouldn’t be worthwhile.

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However, while the bureaucracy involved in the program would have certainly been unworthy, there were several technical reasons that would make the porn block almost impossible to implement anyway.

The origins of the scheme date back to 2015 under the Cameron government, with ministers wanting to come up with a way to protect kids from coming across pornographic material online. The idea was for each adult that wanted to view porn online, to undergo significant age verification beforehand.

There were to be three main ways of verification:

  • Verifying your age using an online account
  • Verifying your age using a voucher and app
  • Verifying your age using facial scanning technology

At least four third-party services were ready to offer this age verification feature – AgeID, AV Secure, AgeChecked, and Yoti. However, with recent public attention on how data is stored by third parties, the scheme was proving controversial – especially as porn viewing habits would be considered highly sensitive data.

Sources have said that the privacy implications of such a scheme hadn’t at first been considered and – it was only when the recent mass attention towards privacy became heightened – that those working on the porn ID scheme started to consider privacy issues.

“The delays have been very much to do with the fact that privacy has been considered at the last minute and they’re having to try to find some way to make these services a bit safer. We should know all of the details of what they are proposing,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said in one of our earlier reports.

On top of that, several of the most popular web browsers announced they were set to start using DNS encryption – a feature that would make it much more difficult for governments to start blocking access to websites. DNS blocking is currently the most preferred way of governments to censor online websites and this is the method that the porn block would have used.

With DNS encryption in place, the ISPs won’t know what website users are visiting – and therefore who to block.

The government canceling the overreaching and bureaucratic porn block scheme will be seen as a win for those that support the open and free internet, as well as those campaigning for privacy rights for individuals.

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