Pornhub just made the internet a lot more secure by changing this one thing on their site
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Image Credit: Pornhub via Youtube

By rolling out encryption on their site, the world’s biggest porn site is making the world a lot safer

It is a little-mentioned truth that pornography has always been a driver behind technological innovation. Whether it was the move to Polaroid cameras that let you develop photos at home, the rapid evolution of VHS and DVDs, the rise of the internet that let you access porn without having to leave the house, the list goes on with VR being the latest push by the industry.

Wherever porn has moved, the rest of the tech space has moved with it and overall we are probably better off for it.

Now with their announcement last week that they would be moving their site from the unprotected HTTP to the more secure HTTPS, the world’s most visited porn site Pornhub, is bringing the web one step closer to better security.

As a brief reminder, HTTPS adds a layer of encryption that keeps prying eyes — a man in the middle attack — somebody like your ISP, a government, or some other kind of attacker — from seeing what you are doing on a given website. This can be pretty important in cases where say you are typing in your credit card details or browsing a site that you wouldn’t want someone knowing exactly what you elected to view. It should be noted though that people will still be able to tell from logs which websites you have been to, but they won’t be able to know what you saw while you were there. This move is pretty great, unless somebody watching you is your thing and this goes and ruins it all for you. Sorry about that.

The slated rollout for the implementation of encryption was April 4th, but the folks over at Pornhub got excited and came out with it a little early in the greatest April Fools Day prank of the year. In case you missed it earlier, visitors to Pornhub who clicked play on a video were quickly greeted with the message that said video had been shared through their social media channels. After probably giving more than a few folks a near heart attack, they took the opportunity to show them that they had already moved to HTTPS.

Pornhub’s sister site YouPorn was still unprotected at the time of writing, so we can assume that they will be sticking to the schedule on that one.

Why does this matter?

Simply put, we should care about privacy. What we like in porn, the fact that we visit these sites at all is a private matter.

While it may feel embarrassing to have your porn viewing history available to others, this can be even riskier for those in the LGBTQ community. In countries where being gay (or anything other than traditional straight for that matter) is illegal, these people can be outed based on their porn searches. In some counties, being caught as gay can land you in jail. In others, it can be much much worse.

Even closer to home in the West, there are young people still living at home who may not be ready to come out to their traditional parents, fearing that they could be kicked out of their homes. A report from 2012 found that LGBTQ youth make up 40% of homeless minors, a significantly bigger chunk than would otherwise be expected based on the percentage of the population. Taking measures to better maintain their privacy should be supported.

So why does size matter here you may ask? The clearest answer here is because as big players like Pornhub change, they lead others to follow. There has been a big push by publishers and companies throughout the internet to add that extra layer of encryption. Take a look at The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Wired, PayPal, and hopefully your bank. As more of these players move to add encryption, others are feeling the pressure to keep up. This a good thing where the consumer wins.

Operated by Luxembourg-based MindGeek, the company that controls most of the major studios and sites in the industry, Pornhub is ranked by Alexa as the 45th most popular site worldwide, and 19th in the US. Simply put, they make up for a lot of the bandwidth. Take a look at their stats for 2016 if you want to wrap your head around the scope.

Don’t be too cocky just yet

It is worth pointing out that the implementation of HTTPS is not exactly making visiting sites like Pornhub any safer. Like going to torrent sites or other grayer areas of the internet, porn sites including Pornhub often host sketchy ads. Remember that nothing is ever really free. Besides falling for those confusing ads promising a bigger member or a romantic evening with your neighbor, there are the risks of attacks through ad injections. But this is a problem faced across the web, with the Jerusalem Post’s advertisement infrastructure being reported last week to have been used by hackers against German lawmakers.

Zooming out, while a third party will not be able to tell which pages you visit inside of Pornhub, they will still know that you went to the site. This means even if you use incognito mode or some other kind of secret mode to keep your history clean, the logs will still show that you paid them a visit. So no, HTTPS will not let you browse covertly at work.

In light of the recent moves by legislators to allow ISPs to sell their customers’ data to interested parties, the question of privacy continues to remain very, very relevant. Even as people continue to upload their selfies, broadcast their locations, and share intimate moments in a constant stream that is being rapidly uploaded to the cloud that never forgets, we need to ask where the line over how much we want to share about ourselves really lies.

Some have argued that privacy is dead and that we have sold it for access to better services in the best cases, and narcissism on the other end of the scales. Could our porn searches be that line?

Even if it’s not, it could be a good place to start from.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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