Culture

What If Hackers Could Find And Share Your Porn Viewing Habits?

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What if hackers could find and share any porn you’ve watched on the internet?

Well, digital rights groups are calling for the government to squash the idea of having identification documents as part of any age-verification system for watching explicit content online.

This is off the back of fears that your personal information and pornography habits could become a huge hacking target.

In the wake of the Optus or Medibank data breach, it’s natural that these fears are surfacing – so is making someone prove they have a credit card or detail their age the best approach here?

Children’s safety groups have flagged concerns about minors easily accessing explicit material online without any real protection and preventative measures in place for years.

It is believed that accidental exposure to porn online regularly occurs from ages 11 to 13.

Negative impacts from accessing pornography so young can lead to unhealthy views of sex and consent.

There is also a greater likelihood of watching extreme and violent porn under the age of 14, which in turn can lead to greater levels of sexual aggression, and coercion.

To tackle the problem Australian eSafety Commissioner has been developing an “online safety roadmap” which sits alongside our infamous Online Safety Bill, and is set to be delivered by March next year.

A number of suggestive measures like porn host sites verifying the age of users through a third-party companies and individual sites verifying ages using ID documents or credit card checks have been put forward.

Speaking to The Guardian, Digital Rights Watch program lead Samantha Floreani has flagged the age verification measures as “a terrible combination of being invasive and risky”, and could create a new honeypot of people’s identities and porn-viewing habits.

The “consequence of a breach of such a system would be devastating,” Floreani said.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has also warned about the security risks.

 

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Meanwhile there are groups which are arguing that the current online methods that are less invasive to privacy aren’t working and are easily sidestepped by kids. Like the anti-porn group Collective Shout, which wants all pornography to be under the same classification as child sexual abuse material or terrorism material.

That would basically be an effective ban on all online pornography, a move that would have devastating impacts for online sex workers, many of whom rely on the internet for income and safer conditions.

While this is unlikely to happen, there are fears that any type of restriction on sexually explicit material could disproportionately harm young LGBTIQ+ people through lack of visibility and having their safe online spaces taken away from them as well.

It could also create extra work for smaller Australian content hosts.

So then what is the solution? Well some companies are already using age-verification online.

Since March this year in Australia Google has been estimating a person’s age by using information gathered on the user’s Google account, like their search history.

Basically if a user were to go to YouTube and watch a video, they must be signed-in with a Google account and their account age must be 18 or older in order to view the video if it is say, sexually explicit.

If Google can’t establish an age it will request a valid ID or credit card to verify their age. The big difference here is that the company says they delete the documents immediately after verification.

Perhaps this will be the only way age verification will make it over the line.