'Porn ban' identity theft fears for the general public

The public is worried about identity theft
The public is worried about identity theft

The fear of identity theft when entering personal details online is of paramount concern for adults, according to new research conducted ahead of the implementation of new government legislation surrounding pornography.


More stringent age checks form part of the government’s Digital Economy Act, the so-called 'porn ban', which is set to come into effect this year. It is hoped that the act, coupled with changes to the UK Gambling Commission’s regulations, will have a positive impact on the level of protection for children against unsuitable content online.

The security and accessibility of personal data online was thrust into the spotlight in 2015, when hackers leaked information on users of Ashley Madison, a dating site marketed at people looking for extra-marital relationships.

And a report by independent age-verification provider AgeChecked, which surveyed 1,500 UK parents, found that 73% would, perhaps justifiably given recent breaches, be apprehensive about giving personal information as verification online, for fear of how the data would be used.

Over half (58%) of those who took part in AgeChecked’s survey listed the potential for theft from their bank accounts as another major worry, whereas just 8% said they would be happy to provide financial information as proof of identity.

The most preferred verification methods were the most minimally invasive – according to the report, almost half (44%) of people would be willing to provide a pre-set password, and 42% would be happy to use that password every time they visited a different site requiring age verification.

The software used by AgeChecked, for example, stores no personal information – meaning users’ data cannot be accessed by the site or any other third parties – and the user retains their anonymity.

Alastair Graham, chief executive of AgeChecked, said: “Age verification methods must be kept simple and straightforward, so they don’t discourage users to abandon sites, and they also must offer high levels of security and protection so that personal information is kept safe.

“No one wants to leave themselves open to identity fraud or financial scams because they’ve had to provide their details online to prove their age. With the introduction of these new regulations, companies need to be more informed on which age verification tool they use.

“Preferably age verification tools are independent and not connected to the wider adult content industry as this could increase the temptation for data to be missued. Using a legally certified age verification tool would help to put customers’ minds at ease that their personal information will be kept safe.

“Users of age-restricted video sites should also look for the ‘Age-verification Certificate’ – the British Board of Film Classification’s stamp of authority, which certifies the adequacy of the site’s chosen age-verification software.”