The UK government has long been planning to introduce age verification checks on pornographic websites so that minors do not unexpectedly stumble upon potentially age-inappropriate content. Although deployment plans were due in April 2018, they were pushed back, presumably in order to implement robust privacy and security safeguards.
Today the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has announced that pornographic websites will have to introduce mandatory age checks by July 15.
The new law is quite interesting, to say the least. Pornographic websites will have to implement age check systems before July 15 or risk being banned by internet service providers (ISPs). Websites which host adult content but it constitutes less than a third of the website's content, or does not have any commercial aspect to it (such as advertisements), will not be subjected to age checks.
What's interesting is that adult companies will themselves be responsible for implementing these age checks.
As such, this process could include obtaining copies of official documents such as passports from users, as is being done by a popular adult company called Mindgeek. The BBFC has stated that it will provide green check symbols to companies which implement "robust" solutions so that their customers can trust them. A form has also been created for the public to report non-compliant websites.
It is important to note that there is still quite some risk of individual data being exposed if pornographic websites do not use secure methods of storing and verifying official documents, which could severely compromise the privacy of people should a data breach occur. It is possible that this is reason that the UK government has not taken the task of age verification upon itself - and instead transferred control to websites - so that it cannot be held directly responsible in such an event.
That said, it is highly likely that most people will resolve to using virtual private networks (VPNs) rather than uploading sensitive data to pass age checks on pornographic websites.
Update: In a statement to Neowin, James Clark, Director of Communications at AgeID has clarified that adult companies will not directly be responsible for implementing age verification checks, but will rather rely on independent age verification platforms. The statement noted that "AgeID does not age verify anyone, it's a single-sign on which provides access to an independent age verification platform where the user chooses an age verification option from a list of 3rd party providers. The options available include Mobile SMS, Credit Card, Passport, or Driving Licence."