Pornhub's owner reveals its age verification tool for the UK

AgeID could be the de facto gatekeeper for porn in the country.

Pornhub owner Mindgeek has unveiled what might become the default gatekeeping tool for porn in the UK. AgeID will ask porn site visitors to create an encrypted login that verifies their age across any compatible site, saving them from having to prove they're 18 or older every time they want to view some racy material. The system will draw on third-party age verification companies, but Mindgeek promises that AgeID won't store any personal info -- it'll only keep "standard technical data" to prevent fraud as well as that protected login.

The technology will be available to every porn site available inside the UK. It'll be free for independent UK porn studios, producers and bloggers, and will cost a flat fee for others depending on their volume of British traffic. It should be available when the Digital Economy Act, the law mandating age checks in the UK, takes effect in April.

This isn't the very first implementation of AgeID. It's been in use in Germany since 2015. However, there are questions about the control it would hand over to Mindgeek and its brands (which include RedTube, YouPorn and Brazzers, among others). If there isn't a major viable alternative, one porn distributor may effectively determine how everyone else checks ages. And it's not clear what constitutes an "independent" studio. Is there a fixed metric, or will Mindgeek use subjective criteria? While there's no immediate indication that it intends to abuse its first-mover advantage (it could have charged everyone), there's a lingering concern that it may have the power to decide which porn sites succeed -- and that the government may have trusted too much of its regulatory power to a private firm.