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The way Britain watches porn will undergo a big change this year.

A controversial new UK law forcing porn sites behind an age-verification wall is set to come into full effect by April.

The government crackdown is a bid to stop under-18s from accessing porn.

Nearly two thirds of 15 to 16-year-olds have seen online pornography, according to an NSPCC survey, and half of under-18s who access porn "stumbled upon" it.

According to the Independent, Digital Minister Matt Hancock said:

We are taking the next step to put in place the legal requirement for websites with adult content to ensure it is safely behind an age-verification control.

All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world.

Critics are concerned about privacy and censorship

Porn giant MindGeek - which owns PornHub, RedTube, YouPorn, and Brazzers - will collect names, phone numbers, addresses, dates, and places of birth before users log in through AgeID.

The data will be then passed on to the government to confirm that the user is over 18.

If porn sites fail to comply with the law, they could be fined up to £250,000.

Jerry Barnett, founder of the Sex & Censorship campaign, told XBIZ that the law is the result of years of lobbying.

He is also concerned that non-pornographic content will be caught up in the watchdog's net.

[It] will fundamentally change the internet in the U.K. and possibly globally. For the first time, the government has the power to block websites, en masse, without court orders. This is a first in a democracy. 

Although this appears to be just about protecting children from porn, it isn't. It will block any site that doesn't comply with strict U.K. content rules.

Any nude image at all risks being categorized as porn, and the entire site being blocked. Current filtering systems class up to 4 million websites as sexual.

Porn site owner Pandora Blake voiced privacy concerns at an Open Rights Group meeting in London last year, reported Metro:

You can imagine how much data that is going to give MindGeek, if they're going to have stats on what people click on, what porn sites people click on, what they pay for.

Once you've got a MindGeek login, you're going to be giving them your entire web browsing history, because they're going to be able to track every time you log in to anything.

The exact nature of verification steps are up to the websites - but it could involve providing credit card details, which cannot be legally issued to anyone under 18, much like the gambling industry.

Given the massive amount of traffic on porn websites, the fear is that a hack could involve huge personal data breach.

Think back to the Ashley Madison hack in August 2015, but much, much worse.

Metro reported that a MindGeek spokesperson said:

AgeID has been built from the ground up with data protection, data minimisation and the principles of privacy by design at its core, while also complying with the GDPR.

This is why we where do not store any personal data entered during the age-verification process.

Due to the encrypted nature of AgeID’s login credentials, such data cannot be exposed in the unlikely event of a hack.

A regulator, most likely the British Board of Film and Classification (BBFC), will oversee the implementation of the law.

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