On Tuesday, Congress voted to repeal the privacy protections that prevent internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon from sharing or selling subscriber information without permission to third parties. This means that every app you open, every website you visit and every item you purchase online could potentially be tracked and sold to the highest bidder. It’s an idea that’s considerably scary considering such data-mining can reveal severely personal information about users, including their medical history and financial situation.
But don’t worry, what you view on adult websites will be fine. Or at least some of those searches could be a hell of a lot safer than those made on SFW websites. That’s because two of the most popular streaming sites, Pornhub and YouPorn, have announced they are joining the ranks of more protected sites by switching to HTTPS.
The s in HTTPS URLs—and the green padlock before it—are visual markings that let users know their connections are safe and secure, thereby making it more difficult for hackers and malware to pry and profit from your personal life. While HTTPS doesn’t prevent an ISP from recording a visit to a site like Pornhub, it does prevent it from tracking specific videos, category links and search words.
Pornhub has already made the switch; YouPorn will do so on April 4, 2017. Considering Tuesday’s vote by Congress, this extra layer of protection couldn’t have come at a better time. According to a recent Google Transparency Report, Pornhub and YouPorn are two of world’s top 100 most visited websites. Of 11 adult websites on the list, only three are HTTPS, meaning whatever you’re looking at on the majority of porn websites could become public knowledge, which is not just unnerving, but also unethical. “With this Internet communication protocol, we can ensure not only the security of our platform, but also that of our users,” Corey Price, Vice President of Pornhub stated in a press release. “At the end of the day, we want every single one of them to feel safe and secure on our platform while enjoying our library of over 5 million videos.”
You may recall that back in July 2015, a group of hackers called the Impact Team compromised Ashley Madison’s user records. This anonymous group copied the personal information of the site’s user base and threatened to release the information if the website didn’t immediately shut down. Ashley Madison didn’t budge, and the hackers made good on their threat by leaking more than 25 gigabytes of company data, which resulted in countless failed marriages and even death. Cases like these, of which there are many, highlight the necessity of more HTTPS-protected websites.
HTTPS offers three layers of protection using expert encryptions to keep out third parties. In addition to providing a more secure and private online experience, it’s asserted that pages also load faster. So if things are so much faster, more secure and all-around better on HTTPS, why don’t all websites use it? I asked myself this same question.
Apparently HTTPS is more costly, but the biggest deterrent boils down to convenience. With HTTPS, users lose the ability to cache information, which shortens data access times, meaning it takes longer for users get where they want to go—even if those pages end up loading faster.
But while speed is valued among internet users, privacy should most definitely trump a seconds-long delay to a webpage. In an added effort to keep your porn viewing private, YouPorn and Pornhub have also incorporated a program called “Bug Bounty” through HackerOne, a vulnerability disclosure platform used by Twitter and Facebook. Via the program, security researchers are invited to identify and report vulnerabilities to help strengthen security and keep out hackers. If their finds are significant, these do-gooders can be paid as much as $20,000.
While it’s obvious these porn titans are doing everything they can to protect their users, of which there are many (Pornhub alone boasts 75 million daily visitors), it’s still scary to ponder just how much of our private information can—and will—be sold for profit. For a full list of websites currently using HTTPS, Google has listed them all here.