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Age verification for porn? Expert warns of security risks as Pornhub considers blocking Canadians

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A Senate bill that would require age verification online to access explicit sites like Pornhub could put personal information at risk, a cybersecurity expert says.

Technology expert Ritesh Kotak said the Senate bill is "noble" in protecting young people from explicit online material and ensuring individuals of age get access to it. 

But, he said, "the way you go about implementing the goal, if done incorrectly, creates more issues and problems in the future than solving a problem."

The proposed legislation doesn't specify how sites should verify a user's age, but options include a digital ID system or face recognition software.

"I'm sure that individuals that are visiting these sites want some level of anonymity, so it's kind of this balancing act between access to content and privacy, with respect to age verification," Kotak said in an interview with CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Kotak said uploading images of government-issued ID like a driver's licence or passport onto a third-party site to verify age can potentially be an issue in the event of a data breach.

Kotak said another option could be the use of an authentication mechanism often seen with government sites such as that of the Canada Revenue Agency, and involves using banking sites to verify a user's identity.

"There have been ways of successfully implementing it. However, this is a whole other realm and is a lot more complex."

Status of Canada's porn bill 

The bill does not get into detail about how identities would be verified, and how this sensitive information might be stored and protected.

As it stands at this stage in the process, it outlines a range of concerns about minors having access to sexually explicit material, including the potential to develop a pornography addiction and the reinforcement of harmful gender stereotypes.

It proposes companies that host such material be forced to ensure young people cannot access it, under threat of fines between $250,000 and $500,000.

The bill is currently being considered by a committee in the House of Commons.

In response to the proposed Bill S-210, Pornhub is considering blocking access to Canadians of all ages to show its opposition. The company says regulations that require sites to collect significant amounts of highly sensitive personal information put user safety in jeopardy.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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