Report: U.K. Web Users Distrust Age Verification

Report: U.K. Web Users Distrust Age Verification

LOS ANGELES — As mandatory online age verification comes to the U.K., service providers seek to field solutions even as consumers reveal their reluctance to participate in the program over privacy concerns.

According to broadband comparison website Broadband Genie, more than half of web users (56 percent) would not trust their personal details with third party age verification websites. Additionally, only 19 percent said they would be comfortable sharing information directly with adult websites for age verification.

Broadband Genie’s Head of Strategy Rob Hilborn said this will be of particular concern to the UK adult website industry when considering the new mandatory AV rules that soon come into effect.

“The fraud issue surrounding this new system is very worrying,” Hilborn explained. “The advice has always been to only enter your data into legitimate, secure and [trusted] websites — something that came through in the findings from our survey.”

“However, we’ve suddenly got a system that will require millions of users to hand over sensitive data to potential high-risk sites or face being blocked,” Hilborn added. “Addressing the issue of children viewing pornographic content is obviously an important one, but the proposed system to tackle this feels cack-handed and high risk to the public.”

In a recent statement Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the new age verification measures would be “fully in place” by April 2018 and will become mandatory on all adult sites. However, the Government’s own assessment of the policy has identified that the risk of online fraud could rise “significantly” through false verification systems and spoof websites used to collect user data.

“Any verification system that requires a user to submit personal details is going to be of interest to cyber criminals,” Information Assurance and Cyber Security expert Vince Warrington notes. “When combined with the fact that this system is covering access to pornographic websites, that interest level increases as the opportunities to exploit that data rise.”

“Not only are we looking at a system which (if breached) would allow the attacker to undertake identity theft, it also opens up the possibility of ransom demands too,” Warrington said. “It’s well within the capabilities of most cybercriminal gangs to set up a means of extracting that information — whether that be by spoofing adult websites or creating false verification systems, or even by planting malware on vulnerable websites to get users to enter their data.”

Broadband Genie is an independent switching site providing consumers and businesses with practical help, advice and price comparison for home broadband, mobile broadband, phones, TV services and mobile accessories. Broadband Genie was launched in March of 2004 as a consumer comparison site for broadband that is now one of the largest in the U.K., attracting more than 250,000 visitors each month.

For its AV report, the company surveyed 2,103 web users age 18 and older from across the U.K. between Dec. 14-Jan. 26. For more information about the survey, click here.